Friday, March 31, 2017

Move Over Seattle; Make Way for the Railroad

I grew up around Tacoma, Washington, moving back a few years ago. Some people won’t have heard of the town. Whenever anything happens in the entire state of Washington, the news media will claim it’s “near Seattle.” Seattle has the bigger harbor. Seattle has the larger population. Seattle has the sports teams (go, Hawks!) and the concert venues. Seattle is home to the University of Washington. Seattle was the site of the World’s Fair, the location of many popular movies (Sleepless in Seattle, anyone?). Tacoma has always been a poor second cousin to the south.

Except when the railroad came to town.

Seattle was still a hamlet then. Yes, it had scored the Territorial University (which was still more grammar school than university then). Yes, it boasted a steam-powered sawmill. Surely the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad would choose Seattle as its terminus on Puget Sound. After all, the city fathers had offered 7,500 lots in town, 3,000 acres along the way, $50,000 in cash, and $200,000 in bonds.

Nope. On July 14, 1873, the mighty railroad notified Seattle that it had chosen the tiny village of Tacoma City located on Commencement Bay instead.

The people of Seattle were aghast, appalled. How could they have been passed over, for Tacoma? They were also a little worried. What would happen to Seattle if all the rail traffic went south? Papers of the time carried ads from merchants, saying “No terminus! And yet alive” and encouraging shoppers to come in for bargains.

Tacoma City was rather puffed up about the whole thing. There was a rush to buy land, position shops where the travelers could access them. Determined to make the most of the opportunity, men chartered another city just to the south along the route, calling it “New Tacoma.” (The two towns were later joined to form Tacoma.) Later, Tacoma would build a grand Union Station, still one of the city’s landmarks.

Supposedly the editor of the paper took great joy in rubbing the matter in Seattle’s face. Indeed, in early April 1875, the Tacoma Tribune even ran a story about the tragic fate of a thespian troop that had left Seattle by ship for Port Madison on the other side of the Sound. The ship sunk, with all hands and passengers gone. The problem? The accident never happened! The actors and their gear made it safely across the Sound.

I thought perhaps the Tacoma editor was trying to sell papers by making up more “interesting” stories. The editor of the Puget Sound Dispatch thought otherwise. He claimed the Tacoma editor was trying to denigrate Seattle.

“Four lies to one truth is far better than an average with the Tribune in mentioning any matter connected with Seattle and its harbor … But then, we have the charity to remember, that the humiliation which Tacoma has suffered in view of its utter and hopeless failure and the success of Seattle, has been an awful strain upon the patience of those who had built their hopes upon Tacoma as a rival town.”

It seems the rivalry I knew growing up is actually more than a century old. And counting.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Queen Victoria’s Big Brother

No, I’m not referring to our favorite queen mind-controlling her subjects in an alternate dystopian 19th century England, but to the not-very-well-known fact that Queen Victoria did indeed have a brother—an older half-brother—just as we’ve seen she had an older half-sister. Unlike her strong sisterly feelings for Feodore, however, Victoria did not feel much closeness for her brother—for good reason.

Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Emich was the elder child and son of Prince Emich Carl of Leiningen and his wife Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, born on September 12, 1804 in the tiny principality of Leiningen. Prince Emich was much older than his wife, and did not live to see his children grow up, for young Carl became Prince in 1814, at the age of ten. His mother became regent for him until he reached his majority at age 18...and that same year, married her second husband, Edward, Duke of Kent.

In 1819, when the new Duchess of Kent was nearing the time to deliver Carl's new sibling, the whole family left Leiningen (where it was much cheaper to live) and went to England for the birth. Thereafter, Carl (or Charles, as he was known in England) seems to have moved back and forth between the two...after all, he was the prince of Leiningen and had responsibilities to his principality as well as rapacious paternal cousins to keep at bay. But during his visits to England, he became friendly with his mother’s comptroller, Sir John Conroy...and was drawn into that slithery opportunist's camp, supporting his and the Duchess of Kent's efforts to keep Victoria firmly under their thumbs. To be fair, he probably saw nothing wrong with his mother being regent for Victoria--after all, she'd been regent for him for ten years in Leiningen (and interestingly, relied heavily on her household steward, a Herr Schindler, to run things. Hmm.)

In 1829 Charles married Countess Maria von Klebelsberg, who bore him two sons, but he still found time to visit England...and was on hand during the fraught first half of 1837 when a desperate Sir John Conroy was seeing his chances of power slipping through his fingers. Charles at first supported their efforts; but when their Uncle Leopold, King of the Belgians, sent over his eminence grise Baron Stockmar to intervene, Charles began to realize that his little sister was indeed about to become queen, on her own terms...and when just days before the death of King William Conroy stated that Victoria "must be coerced" he did some back-pedaling and advised his mother to do no such thing.

Unfortunately, it's hard to find much about what he did after that, but I was able to find some information: Charles spent some time serving in the Bavarian Army, but Leiningen did not provide much of an income and his family seems to have relied on a pension from Victoria; he and his family were on good terms with Victoria and Albert, and were frequent visitors to England. During the politically restless years of the 1840s in Germany, he became involved in politics, surprisingly on the liberal side, and was (briefly) in 1848 the first prime minister of the first freely-elected parliament for all of Germany, the Frankfurt Parliament. In 1855, he suffered a stroke; a second one the following year proved fatal and he died in November, with his sister Feodore at his side. He was succeeded as prince of tiny Leiningen by his elder son Ernest, who was also an officer in the British Navy.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Where's Mother? Hint--Look Under the Chair

My publisher loves babies. Not necessarily to raise, but in the books. Apparently readers have written in gushing over how much they love babies too. So, my June book features 10-month old triplets (as you can see), my September book includes a serious 4-month-old, and my December book has a cheery 6-month-old among the cast. And I am in the enviable position of having to look up 19th century baby pictures to show the cover artists. In doing so, however, I learned that there’s often someone else hiding in the pictures.


These so-called “hidden mother” pictures appear to be fairly common. Even Harper’s Bazar teased at the process in its early May 1888 issue, although Father gets the honor in this one.

The idea was simple. A family wanted a photograph of their little darling, but said darling was a bit too young, or too roly-poly, to sit still for a portrait, particularly with the long exposure times needed back then. So, someone had to hold the baby in place.

Now, you would think that Mother could be in the photo too, but apparently not. Mothers had to be present, but not seen. Here are some examples.

This one isn’t too bad. Mother's just offstage. But why not let her be onstage?

You can see most of Mother in this one. Why not show her face?

This is a little more severe. Can you spot the baby’s mother? Look at the floor, and you’ll see her skirts and shoes. Otherwise, she appears little more than part of the furniture.

And in this one, she seems to have been swallowed by a tapestry!

Now, I will admit, when we had the first professional photographs taken of our oldest son, he tipped backward right off the stand! Luckily, he did a flip on the way down and landed on his well-padded posterior. But I can understand the need to make sure your baby was safe.

Still, to pose as furniture? I’m not certain I’d be willing to do it. How about you?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Accessories, Part 8: More Parasols

We’re back for another installment in our fashion series on NineteenTeen focusing not on dresses and gowns (gorgeous as they are) but on the little things that complete a fashionable ensemble—hats, shoes, gloves, purses, and other accessories

Back in February we looked at parasols from the first two decades of the 19th century; here are examples from the next fifteen years. Look for lots of images rather than commentary, though I’ll try to supply original text if I have it—the point is to be able to examine multiple examples of each item. Images are drawn from my collection of prints from British publications including Ackermann’s Repository, La Belle AssemblĂ©e, Lady's Magazine, and the Court Magazine. However, Ackermann’s had the most detailed plates, so the majority of images you’ll see will be from that publication.  These date from 1819-1834.

Walking Dress, Ackermann's Repository, May 1819.  Notice that this parasol has a full handle grip and a band of fabric to keep it furled when not in use.

Walking Dress, Ackermann's Repository, September 1821.  Note the tiny hooked end of the handle.

Walking Dress, Ackermann's Repository, April 1822. Here you can clearly see a ring on a ribbon to help keep the parasol furled when not in use.

Public Promenade Dress, La Belle Assemblee, October 1824.  An elaborately turned shaft, hooked handle, and ring furler.

Promenade Dress, Ackermann's Repository, July 1825. A finely machine-turned shaft--and two colors!

Morning Promenade Dress, Lady's Magazine, July 1825. "Chinese parasol of grass-green edged with white." 

Sea Side Dress, Lady's Magazine, August 1825. Either the artist lost track of his scale, or that is one large parasol!

Garden Costume, Ackermann's Repository, November 1825. "...rose-colour parasol, lined with white, and an antique wreath round the edge."

Walking Dress, Ackermann's Repository, July 1826. The finial looks lethal!

Sea-Side Costume, Ackermann's Repository, September 1827. The shaft appears to be of bamboo.

Walking Dress, La Belle Assemblee, June 1832.

Morning Dress, The Court Magazine, September 1832.

Public Promenade Dress, The Court Magazine, October 1833. What a pretty one! Note the ring up near the finial to keep it furled.


Walking Dress, The Court Magazine, October 1834. Printed fabric for parasols seems to be a trend.

So are you with me? Bring Back the Parasol!

Friday, March 17, 2017

All the News That Was, and Wasn't

I’m doing research. Lovely, lovely research. When I’m starting to plot a new Frontier Bachelors book, I read newspapers from the months in which I’m thinking about setting the tale. I like to see what was happening in Seattle, from a citizen’s point of view (or at least an editor on the other side of the Sound). I discovered the germ of the idea for A Convenient Christmas Wedding that way. I was fairly sure Beth Wallin’s story would be set in the spring of 1875, and I’d seen a mention online that there’d been a diphtheria epidemic in March. I never did find mention of the epidemic, but what I did find amazed me.

Much of the news wasn’t exactly news. 

Take this gem from the March 25, 1875, issue of the Puget Sound Dispatch:

“A Philadelphia youth was recently married to a girl who had refused him eighteen times. He wishes now he hadn’t asked her but seventeen.”

Or this

“We call the attention to Mr. Bergh [authority in the school system at the time] to the fact that the wolves are in a starving condition in Wisconsin. Any children sent there will be forwarded from Milwaukee.”

Or this

“Julia Ward Howe is organizing a literary club in Washington [D.C.]. In conjunction with it will be a free night school for carpet-bag representatives who cannot spell words of more than two syllables.”


The Weekly Argus of around the same time included a short story called Eurella, about a girl who put on airs because of her fancy first name and lived to regret it.

Then there was this, supposedly taken from a paper in Vineland, New Jersey:

“Mr. Carruth, editor of a paper published here, was fatally shot this morning by Chas. K. Landis, known as the father of Vineland. The affair rose out of an article in the paper, which Landis tho’t referred to him, but in which no names were mentioned.”

Maybe there’s a reason the Dispatch editor chose to use more stories without local people in them!

That issue does go on to describe massive parades celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York.

So, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Not Regency Fabric, Part 2

Since Rudolf Ackermann sold not only prints in his shop but art supplies as well, it’s hardly surprising that he should make use of his own magazine to get a little advertising in for that side of his business. Back in April of last year we saw samples of fancy papers for crafters; in this issue, we have samples of paper for artists. I don’t pretend to the least technical artistic knowledge, but I’ll comment to the degree that I can to give you a better picture (I hope!) of the thickness and texture of these papers...and maybe the artists among you can chime in. Don’t forget that painting in water-colors was thought to be a necessary skill for young ladies pretending to any degree of gentility, to demonstrate their refinement and properly “feminine” education (I hope that Regina will say a word or two about that!)...definitely the audience Ackermann was targeting.

The overall condition of the page and samples is excellent, considering it is over two hundred years old. I operate under the assumption that the now-cream-colored paper samples were once much whiter but have yellowed due to the acid content of their material, just as the pages of Ackermann’s Repository themselves have done.

In the annexed print, No. 1, is a newly manufactured white cartridge paper, of very superior quality. Those of our readers who have practiced painting in water colours, know that the two great faults of drawing papers are, either that the surface is so smooth, and the texture so hard, that a wash cannot be repeated without disturbing the tint beneath; or, that the paper is partially absorbent, and dries in spots and patches. These evils are completely removed in the paper referred to: it is sufficiently absorbent, it receives the colour freely, and it dries in the flattest tints; and yet, from its granulated surface, it enables the artist to introduce all those accidental varieties, which give to a work of art so much of the sentiment and character of nature. We cannot too warmly recommend this paper, as we are confident, from experience, that it will give universal satisfaction.

My comments:  First things first, what is cartridge paper? It's a heavy paper used for drawing and illustration, according to the dictionary...but was originally used to make cartridges for firearms before metal cartridges came into use...who knew?  This paper sample is definitely textured--it reminds me almost of some of the hand-made craft papers I've seen--but the texture is very even. The weight is similar to cover-stock.

No. 2 is an excellent brown cartridge, which will be found occasionally useful, though not so generally serviceable.

My comments: Pardon my cynicism, but I’m guessing this paper was sold more cheaply than the first. It’s actually a bit sturdier and heavier in weight than the first sample, with a less uniformly fine texture.

No. 3 is a wove vellum paper, of excellent quality. It is here introduced to prevent any misunderstanding on the subject of the first paper. It must be obvious, from the coarseness of the textures of the cartridge, that it cannot be used for any subject which requires accurate detail and delicate execution. Fruit, flowers, shells, and other objects of that nature, then, will require a paper of this kind and quality.

My comments: Definitely much smoother in texture than the first two samples, comparable in weight to, say, a lightweight cover stock (and a little bit lighter than No. 1.) It almost reminds me of construction paper.

In No. 4 we have given a specimen of a good silk paper, for chalk or crayons. It is of an agreeable negative hue, and, by means of red, black, and white chalk, a flesh tint may be produced, the colour of the paper furnishing the harmonizing ground.

My comments: Another sturdy paper, not as smooth as No. 3 but not as heavily textured as the other samples. I'd love to know if this has faded with time or not--right now it's a nice darkish gray color, and would be lovely for chalks or pastels.

Would any artists out there care to comment?

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Cabin in the Wilderness

When I first started writing my Frontier Bachelors series, I envisioned everyone living in sturdy log cabins surrounded by fir trees. Maybe that vision sprang from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. Maybe it was my (obsessive) devotion to Here Comes the Brides, the television program loosely based on the Mercer Girls who form the cadre of heroines in my books. Regardless, the more I researched, the more I discovered there are cabins and there are cabins.

Pioneers have ever made use of what was on hand to carve out homes. Early settlers on the plains made sod houses. Some used hollowed-out tree stumps. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it was logical to use logs to construct homes. After all, you had to clear those one hundred and sixty acres you’d claimed. Might as well use the timber for something while you were at it. Waste not, want not.

Most of these houses were square and small, with neither porch nor full-sized second story. The one above was no more than 10 feet square inside, with a sleeping loft overhead accessed by an iron ladder against one wall. Seeing those tight quarters gave me a whole new appreciation for the term “cabin fever.”

Yesler’s mill began sawing that timber into boards in 1852. Many of those boards were shipped south to San Francisco, but some stayed in the area to build homes and businesses. One of the cabins from which I drew my inspiration for the Wallins’ home was made from planed timber. The one at the right appears to be as well.

As time passed and people became more affluent, fancier houses were built. The house owned by Arthur and Mary Denny with its wide porch and bric-a-brac edging the roof  fascinates Maddie O’Rourke. Simon will build such a home for Nora on the ridge above the main clearing. Look for it in Levi’s story next December. Of course, some still built log cabins, bigger and better.

Yeah, I’ll take that cabin in the wilderness.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

1810, What a Year It Was, Part 4: Poor Princess Amelia

1810 was not a good year for Britain’s royal family. As we saw in this post last year, the Duke of Cumberland came close to losing his life in May; in November his youngest sister Princess Amelia would lose hers...with far-reaching effects.

Amelia was the fifteenth and last child of George III and Queen Charlotte, born August 7, 1783, just as the American Revolution was coming to a close and just a few months after the death of her brother Octavius, who had been the apple of his father’s eye. Amelia (named after the king’s aunt) came to somewhat take Octavius’s place; she was by all accounts a charming, beautiful child, adored by all her older siblings.

Amelia grew up mostly in the company of her elder sisters Mary and Sophia, grouped in a triad as were her eldest three sisters, Charlotte, Augusta, and Elizabeth. They received the what seems to have been a watered-down, less intellectual version of the education their elder sisters had received, and were much less directly supervised by the Queen than their elders had been.

By her mid-teens, Amelia was a tall, buxom, handsome young woman...but her handsome, sturdy appearance was misleading. In the summer of her fifteenth year, she was stricken with an inflamed knee that kept her partially bed-ridden through Christmas. Although she apparently healed, the likelihood is that this illness was the first manifestation of tuberculosis.

Amelia’s life continued its sheltered path, like that of all her sisters...until she fell in love, at eighteen, with one of her father’s equerries, the Honourable Charles Fitzroy. He was more than twenty years her senior, but her affections seem to have been returned. Amelia dreamed of marrying her Charles, but of course this was quite impossible...but that didn’t stop her from carrying on a passionate correspondence with him, holding hands with him under the card table and sneaking whatever private moments they could, or ordering silver engraved with their initials for the home she hoped to have with him someday. She kept her hopes up by planning for her 25th birthday, for according to the Royal Marriages Act, members of the royal family could marry at that age without the king’s permission, so long as they gave Parliament a year’s notice of their intentions. But by that time, the King’s health, both mental and physical, had become sufficiently precarious that she knew she could never go through with it lest the shock destroy him.

Moreover, Amelia’s health remained difficult, necessitating frequent visits to the seaside to recover. By her mid-twenties, royal physicians realized that the princess was indeed consumptive...and by 1809, she was almost incapacitated by a terrible pain in her side, which her doctors tried to cure by inserting a drainage tube.  At the beginning of the new year she was afflicted with a painful skin infection, erysipelas, which just made matters worse. It was clear that Amelia was not long for the world; she made a will, leaving all her worldly goods to her beloved Charles Fitzroy. In September 1810 she begged her physician, Sir Henry Halford, to ask the king if she could be allowed to marry Fitzroy. Halford refused to intercede...and the poor princess continued to decline, ravaged by a further outbreak of erysipelas. Her elder sister (and devoted nurse) Augusta did manage to sneak Fitzroy in for a visit sometime in October, when it was clear that the end was coming.

But Amelia wasn’t the only member of the royal family whose health was of concern. The king, now nearly blind, had been giving his ministers and courtiers great cause for worry, for symptoms of the fits of madness he’d suffered in previous years seemed to be returning. When poor Amelia breathed her last on November 2, the loss of this beloved daughter seemed to provide the final push...and by January, the king would be declared incompetent and a regency declared.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Gentleman's St. James's

It’s no secret that St. James’s in London was accorded an area for gentlemen. Some say a lady could not be seen there after a certain time of the day without being considered fast. As Marissa and I have mentioned, it is the location of one of the famous gentlemen’s clubs, White’s. It stands at Numbers 37 and 38. Another club, Boodles, was at Number 28, and Brooks was at the corner of Park Place.

But there were other reasons this street was so very male-oriented. Lodging, for one. It was the street that housed Fenton’s, a hotel where visitors from out of town might stay. Some gentlemen had permanent lodging there. In addition, some of the buildings had flats above street level as well. Lord Byron rose to fame in his lodgings there in 1811. James Gillray the caricaturist lived there from 1808 until his death in1815.

St. James’s also featured shopping of a particularly gentlemanly nature. D.R. Harris and Co. has been operating just down the street from White’s since 1790. The chemists specialized in lavender water, men’s colognes, and English flower perfumes as well as shaving gear and items for tending mustaches.

Not too far away was Lock’s Hatters, where a gentleman might buy a silk top hat or cockade. Lord Nelson and Beau Brummel were among its patrons. On the opposite end of the street was Berry Brothers and Rudd, wine merchants and home of one of the largest scales in London. It was a lark to weigh oneself on it.

So, would you have been brave enough to stroll down St. James’s while the gentlemen were at play?

Drawing of Fenton's Hotel courtesy of Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images