Friday, September 27, 2019

Exploring a Legend: John Wesley Powell and the Grand Canyon

I am quite impressed with the Grand Canyon. I know I’m not the only one. All that rugged grandeur! The colors, the changing weather, the varying landscape as you descend. The silence, as if all of nature is holding its breath. But when John Wesley Powell decided to explore the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon, the place was not much more than a legend.

So was he, truth be told. John Wesley Powell joined the Union Army as a military engineer, but he served in many positions during the Civil War and ended up a brevet lieutenant colonel. A minié ball blew off most of his right arm, but he continued serving until the war ended. Geology was always his greatest love, so he took a position as a professor at Illinois Wesleyan University in that subject. He’d led his wife and students on several journeys of exploration when he decided to tackle the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1869. And he nearly lost his life in the process.

Dangerous rapids, difficult portages, poor weather and flash flood would all plague the trip. They lost most of their boats; they lost most of their supplies. Three men gave up at one point to leave the expedition and hike out of the canyon. They were never heard from again. Four months later, the rest of the expedition made it out.

But the canyon had a grip on his heart and mind. Determined to make it all the way through, with photographic evidence this time, he set out again in May of 1871 with a group of hand-picked men, including photographer John Hillers. It took them eight months, but they managed to traverse the canyon safely, coming out at Kanab Creek. With photographs to prove it.

Powell went on to publish his report of both trips for public consumption, which went a long way toward instilling in the Nation a love for the area, ensuring its preservation as a national park.

His first expedition was commemorated 100 years later with a U.S. postal stamp.

Rather grand, isn’t it?

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Universal Advertising Sheet, Part 4

Let’s see what interesting shreds of personal and social history we can read about, courtesy this week of the Monthly Compendium of Literary, Fashionable, and Domestic Advertisements from the February and March 1811 editions of La Belle Assemblée...

November 1810 saw the death of George III’s youngest daughter, Princess Amelia, and commercial after-effects were still being felt, as demonstrated by these two items:

The Nobility, Gentry, and Families, are respectfully informed, that SNUGGS and Co Mercers and Manufacturers to Her Majesty and the Royal Family, have a most extensive Assortment of every fashionable Article for the occasion, warranted f superior make, and at such prices as must ensure general approbation. No. 20, the Corner of Henrietta-street, Covent Garden. (February 1811)

(Hmmm. One wonders if they overstocked back in November...)


The extra-ordinary and general respect in which that amiable Princess was and is still held, is strikingly demonstrated by the unusual demand for the beautiful Portrait of her engraved by Agar, after Mrs. Mee. The original plate is already quite worn out; and the public will not be displeased to learn, that the same able artist has another in hand, which will be finished in a few days, and will possess all the advantages that may naturally be expected in a second performance. (February 1811)

(All the advantages of a second performance...does that mean it’s an even more flattering likeness?

However, this advertisement very much looks forward to the relaxing of mourning:


Mr. M. MARKS, most respectfully informs the Nobility and Gentry, that he intends to engage Musicians, and personally to attend at Balls, Masquerades, &c. as usual, and solicits their commands for the winter season. Letters or messages addressed to Mr. M. MARKS, Musician at the Surrey Theatre; or at Mr. Wilson’s, Dancing-Master, No. 9, Bedford-row, will receive the strictest attention.

MR. MARK’S Collection of Dances may be had at Kelly’s Saloon, Pall-Mall; Birchall and Golding, Bond-street, and at all the principal Music Shops. (February 1811)

This one was interesting...Regency falsies?!


TALMAGE’S fashionable CORSET Warehouse, removed from Orchard-street, Portman-square, to No. 31, Park-street, Grosvenor square, where he continues to Sell his new invented PATENT SHIELDS for the bosom, which are so universally approved of by Ladies in the first circles of fashion, as they display the most graceful form imaginable. Ocular demonstration will convince any Lady of their utility, without even a single trial; also his new invented Corsets, that for ease and elegance stand unrivalled. Ladies elastic steel backs, braces, and monitors, upon an entire new plan, for improving the shape. (March 1811)

And I found this particularly interesting, for many reasons:


Mr. Wilson, Dancing Master, from the King’s Theatre, Opera-House, Author of the Analysis of Country Dancing, Treasures of Terpsichore, &c., respectfully informs the Public, that his Academy for Dancing is now open every day, where persons of any age may be instructed in every department of Dancing, adapted either to the Stage or Ball-room.

For the sake of privacy, no third person is permitted to be present while the Pupil is receiving a lesson.

Country Dancing, Four private lesson: One Guinea, or completed for Five Guineas; Reels, with the Original Irish and Scottish Steps, Four Guineas. The Terms of every other Dance may be known of Mr. Wilson, at his residence, 9, Bedford-street, Bedford-row, Holborn, where he may be privately spoke with every afternoon from four till six o’clock.

Where may be had, price 7s. 6d. his “Analysis of Country Dancing;” likewise, his “Treasures of Terpsichore.”

N.B. Ladies wishing Private Instructions may receive them from Mrs. Wilson. (March 1811)

So private dancing lessons, with no one else to witness your two left feet in motion, could be had for both men and women...but wow, they were pricy! Interesting, too, that the ad specifies that stage dancing was also a time when dancing on stage was, shall we say, not very respectable.

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?