Posted in About the Book, History

Researching the South during the Gilded Age

In this post, I want to do two things: I want to share with you some of the research that went into my novel, If Only It Were Yesterday, and I also want to review and recommend one of my key research books.

Whether you’re a historical fiction fan or history buff, you’re likely to notice that our focus shifts from region to region based on what’s going on during that time. It’s not hard to find books (fiction or non-fiction) based on life in the South during the Civil War or even the years leading up to or shortly after the war. However, the last three decades of the nineteenth century shifts our focus either to the west during the western expansion or to the north during the Industrial Revolution. But what was life like in the South during those years?

I’m not saying you won’t find ANY information, but it is a lot harder to come by. Because the focus in our nation shifts, there’s a gaping hole in our common knowledge of the period where the South is concerned. As a historical fiction fan, when I think of books during the Gilded Era, I think of stories in the North featuring either wealthy families or poor immigrant families. Because of what we commonly see, when  I sat down to write If Only It Were Yesterday, I had some questions: The last time we looked at the South, wealthy families had slaves or paid black freedmen. But the average snapshot of America during the Gilded Age shows me that most servants are immigrants. The last time we looked at the South, they were destitute. For the first time, both the rich and the poor, the black and the white, had a great deal in common: they had a great deal of nothing. But the average snapshot of America during the Gilded Age shows that electricity was becoming common, among other advances. So it begged the question: How many of these common understandings of the North were true of the South?

I don’t doubt one of you will take up the challenge and do a quick Google search and find all that it took me months to find. But for me, it was like pulling teeth to find documented proof of what the South looked like during a time that was so focused on the North or the West. Which makes From Morning to Night by Elizabeth L. O’Leary an answer to prayer.

Right there on the cover, it says “Domestic Service in Maymont House and the Gilded Age South.” FINALLY! This was the sort of book that promised to answer my questions. And, boy, did it! It’s one of those books that I highlighted but found myself wanting to highlight nearly the entire page. There was so much information packed in here.

The book features an extremely wealthy family in Richmond. The Dooleys were the exception here in the South, but O’Leary graciously explained what was commonplace for the Dooley’s and how it compared with others around them. It offered insight into the progression of technology within the home during those inventive years. It also weaves in terminology and common practices between servants and the families they served. It offers insight into the lifestyles of the servants and their employers, helping others like myself who wish to know more about the day to day life of those in the South. Since the Dooley’s were among the wealthiest in the South, you are given a look at the best that money could buy as well as how it compared to those who wouldn’t have afforded quite so much.
And in case you were wondering the answers to my questions: servants in the South during that time were primarily black people and very few were immigrants or poorer white Americans. And while electricity was becoming commonplace in the North, it was behind in the South. Wealthy families in larger cities had a better chance of having access to it, but smaller cities or rural areas couldn’t afford to supply it.

I highly recommend From Morning to Night to anyone who wishes to look deeper into the relationship between servant and employer, even if your primary concern isn’t focused on the South. But the book does bring the unique situation of the Gilded Age in the South to light. O’Leary balances what the historical documents reveal about the Dooleys with common experiences throughout the South as well as using quotes from various sources to further prove or explain the information.
I gladly give it 5 stars and a permanent place on my research shelf.

 

337Step off the lush carpet and push through the swinging door of the butler’s pantry to enter the bustling realm of domestic workers at Maymont House from 1893 to 1925. In From Morning to Night, Elizabeth O’Leary takes the reader behind the scenes in the opulent mansion of the Richmond multimillionaire James H. Dooley and his wife, Sallie. Drawing upon personal letters, business and government documents, and numerous oral histories of older Richmonders―both black and white―O’Leary examines the parallel and divergent viewpoints of server and served in this Virginia version of “Upstairs/Downstairs.”

Raised in slave-owning households before the Civil War, the Dooleys experienced the transformation of the master/mistress-slave relationship to that of employer-employee. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they relied on a full complement of domestic servants to maintain their lavish residences and lifestyle. In turn, numerous men and women―predominantly African American―labored to meet the day-to-day challenges of running an elaborate household. At the same time, they negotiated the era’s increasing Jim Crow restrictions and, during precious hours off-duty, helped support families, churches, and the larger black community.

By examining the formalities and practices of the Dooleys at home and by giving a presence and voice to their “help,” From Morning to Night offers insights into domestic and social systems at work within and beyond the upper-class household in the Gilded Age South.

Buying Options: At the time that I was writing this post, I checked Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Half.com and found both used and new options cheaper at Amazon.

 

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Posted in History

Quotes from General Lee and General Grant

In celebration of the anniversary of Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox earlier this month, I thought we’d take a look at some famous quotes from both generals. You could certainly spend all day reading the various quotes from each man. There was so much that I wanted to share. Words on army life, each other, honor, life, God, country, etc. But I chose to keep it short and sweet. Enjoy!

244Robert E. Lee:

“I have been up to see the Congress and they do not seem to be able to do anything except to eat peanuts and chew tobacco, while my army is starving.”

“It is good that war is so horrible, or we might grow to like it.”

“I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself.”

“The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”

“Never do a wrong thing to make a friend or to keep one.”

“I like whiskey. I always did, and that is why I never drink it.”

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*I picked up these mugs in Virginia three years ago. I love the quotes and the graphics. The front side shows a picture of the general. But what I love most are the signatures. The one on the left is Grant and the right belongs to Lee. 

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Ulysses S. Grant:

“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.”

“My failures have been errors in judgment, not of intent.”

“I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.”

“Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.”

“I know only two tunes: one of them is ‘Yankee Doodle’, and the other isn’t.”

“I don’t know why black skin may not cover a true heart as well as a white one.”

I hope you enjoyed this small sampling of both men. Let me know which quote was your favorite or any that surprised or inspired you. 

Posted in History

Getting Dressed: A Collection of Historical Dressing Videos

I enjoy learning about historical fashion and have taken you on tours in the past. But there is something that videos can teach us that simple text cannot. I thought it would be interesting and even handy to collect some videos together for your enjoyment.
I do not own any of these videos so refer to the video itself for ownership and credit.

First, we’re going to look at the late 1700s, also known as Georgian, American Colonial, or American Revolutionary War eras.

This video does the best job explaining the various pieces and shows more detail into how they were actually layered on. This is an example of a wealthy woman of the day.
**Be sure to watch this video. Some of the other videos on the page rush through many of the details, so this one becomes a sort of foundation that will allow you to fill in the gaps in the other videos.

 

And here is an example of a working woman of the same era. You’ll notice some differences in the clothing as well as the stays, which can be laced in front since she didn’t have a maid to assist her.

 

And here is an example of a soldier’s layering, also from the same era. Now we can imagine that while the average man wore different clothing, there’d be some similarities as well.

 

And next, we move on to Regency. In America, this would be around the War of 1812. This video is a little bit quicker and doesn’t explain things as nicely as that first one did. But after watching the first one, it’s easier to grasp what’s happening here.

 

And if you’re as curious as I am about how men wore their ties here’s a look at how it’s done. This video covers some of the simpler styles, which is great news for reenactors looking for a new look, as well as curious readers. 😉

 

The first half of this video is from the Civil War. The Civil War was in the 1860s. The bulk of the 18th century is often referred to as the Victorian Era.
Before the 1850’s women wore a layer of petticoats. Here we see the introduction of the hoop skirt.
This is a two in one video. She’ll also show us how to put on another style of dress. While we’re still in the Victorian Era, Americans often refer to the last half of the 1800s as the Gilded or Progressive Era, pending on the actual year. The biggest change in the style is that the hoop skirt is out and the bustle is in.

 

I hope you enjoyed this look at historical fashion. I’d love to hear from you!

Which part of the process surprised you the most? Which style do you like the best? Have you ever worn a gown like these before?

 

 

Posted in History

The History Lover’s Playground: Digitized Newspapers

I want to share a website that I ran across during my research. This is for the author, history buff, or those who are bored and looking for something new to read. 😉
 It’s called: Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers

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I found this website when I was searching up headline news during the year 1885. As it turns out, I wasn’t finding much…until I opened this site. 

Here are some of the perks: 
Over 2,000 newspapers (as in titles) to view on the site
Papers from most of the states across the nation
Dates range from 1789-1924
They have a newspaper directory where you can search for a paper they didn’t have on the site that was printed between the years 1690-present.
The site is part of the Library of Congress.
Narrow down your search to a particular year or section of years
Narrow down your search by state
You can view the full paper or just the front page.
Easy to navigate
Great zoom
You can “clip” out images and save them straight to your computer.
It’s FREE!
What better way to find out about the people of another generation than to read their newspaper!!

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I clipped out the sports section of the Memphis, TN paper from 1885. Enjoy!

Now it’s your turn! Go check the page out for yourself if you haven’t already. Make sure to bookmark it so you can return as often as you like!

I’ll be bringing you some of the interesting things I had uncovered during my search in a later post, but for today, I’d love for you to share something interesting with me that you found from one of these newspapers. Happy Reading!!

Posted in History

Celebrating History: The 152nd Anniversary of Lee’s Surrender to Grant

247This is probably my favorite moment in American history. I never cease to be fascinated by the men involved and their attitudes and actions. Some were expected, but many surprised me.

Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9th, 1865, bringing the beginning of the end of the Civil War a reality. The surrender was more than a single moment but was an event that lasted for four days as parole papers were printed, signed, and ex-Rebels turned in their weapons.

In the past, I had done up the occasion rather nicely. I’ll be celebrating the moment a little quieter this year, but I want to point you toward a few links for anyone who is interested in taking a closer look.

Experiencing History Blog series: I had written a blog series during the 150th anniversary of the surrender, paying close attention to the historical timeline of events as they played out. The series starts days before the surrender, allowing you to see what was happening, as well as read the letters exchanged between generals. The series continues through Lincoln’s assassination which took place just days later. And the series wraps up with 5 collections of pictures that I took in Appomattox that year during the 150th celebration.

Celebrating History Facebook party: I reloaded the fascinating facts and hosted a grand party on Facebook last year. The link is still available so you can browse and comment to your heart’s content.

*Both the blog series and the facebook party were originally associated with a giveaway. Both giveaways are closed. You’re welcome to comment, and I’ll respond. But I’m no longer collecting entries or hosting a giveaway this year.

Current celebration on Facebook: I’m pulling up a few of my favorite party posts and sharing them anew this year. You can visit my page to take part in the discussion. We’ve kicked things off with my favorite, “Generals’ Ball” where we select a dress to wear and decide who we would dance with first–General Grant or General Lee.

I hope to see you around this week! You can chat with me below: Do you have a favorite moment in American History?

Posted in History

Experiencing History Blog Series: Reliving the End of the Civil War, Moment by Moment

I had written a blog series during the 150th anniversary of the surrender, paying close attention to the historical timeline of events as they played out. The series starts days before the surrender, allowing you to see what was happening, as well as the letters exchanged between generals, as Lee and Grant were moving in position to collide in a most memorable way. The series continues through Lincoln’s assassination which took place just days later. And the series wraps up with 5 collections of pictures that I had taken in Appomattox that year during the 150th celebration.

To make things easier for you, I’ve pulled all the links together in order. I hope you enjoy!

*Originally I had hosted a giveaway along with this series. The giveaway is over. Feel free to comment on any of the posts, but I’m no longer collecting entries.

Experiencing History: Reliving the End of the Civil War, Moment by Moment:

4/7 Part 1: Let’s jump start this series with some basic feelings from both armies.

4/7 Part 2: Grant sends a message to Lee asking him to surrender

4/8 Part 1: Lee responds and Grant sends a second note

4/8 Part 2: A quote from a Union soldier and a new message from Lee

4/9 Part 1: The armies on the move again and Grant sends another message.

4/9 Part 2: Hours before their meeting, the generals exchange 2 more letters.

4/9 Part 3: The hour has come! Read the terms of surrender and Grant’s version of the events of that hour.

4/9 Part 4: Two eye witness accounts

4/10: Read what was happening the day after the surrender by a man who was there.

4/11: Read the accounts of both Union and Confederate supporters as they hear the news of Lee’s surrender

4/12: Stacking of Arms Ceremony. Read two eye witness accounts of this solemn moment

4/13: Read Lee’s Farewell Address to his army

4/14 Part 1: Hours before Lincoln enters Ford’s Theatre

4/14 Part 2: A fictionalized account of the moment Lincoln was shot

4/15: The country is thrown into mourning. Details of the day as well as the account of a Union soldier the moment he was told.

Pictures from Appomattox:

Part 1: Reenactors

Part 2: Personal Collection

Part 3: Soldier Life

Part 4: Museums

Part 5: Stacking of Arms Ceremony

 

Posted in History

Historical Book Review: The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette by Florence Hartley

52This is a special book review especially for history fans or historical authors. And the best part is, this book is a freebie on Amazon!!

The full title is, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness A Complete Hand Book for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society.
Now if that isn’t a mouth full, I’m not sure what is! Lol

I picked up this book with the intentions of getting a better understanding of the customs and social manners of the 1800s. And, boy, was it a gold mine!! Along with the do’s and don’t’s, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette also gave me a lesson on the common, day to day things like paying and accepting house calls. You can’t get a better source on Victorian customs than a book written in 1860.
I highly recommend this to anyone wanting to study more about the time period. I had picked up another freebie but I enjoyed the flow of thought and the overall writing style better in Florence’s version. I’ll share both links at the bottom of this page and you can give both books a try if you wish.

Here’s a list of categories found in the book:
Conversation
Dress (A MAJOR bonus in this book! She offers a fantastic breakdown on the type of dresses and when/why they were worn as well as what style was acceptable for each.)
Traveling
How to behave in a hotel
Evening Parties as the hostess
Evening parties as the guest
Visiting as the hostess
Visiting as the guest
Morning receptions or calls as the hostess
Morning receptions or calls as the guest
Dinner company as the hostess
Dinner company as the guest
Table etiquette
Conduct in the street
Letter writing
Polite deportment and good habits
Conduct in church
Ballroom etiquette for the hostess
Ballroom etiquette for the guest
Places of amusement
Accomplishments
Servants
On a young lady’s conduct when contemplating marriage
Bridal etiquette
Hints on health
Miscellaneous
For the complexion

I haven’t finished reading this gem yet, but I’ve seen more than enough to pass it along to my fellow historian junkies.
You’ll find a free ebook version on Amazon here:
The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness A Complete Hand Book for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society

As mentioned, there is another book similar to this one. I didn’t read very far into it before switching books. But feel free to check them both out. This one is also free on Amazon.
Martine’s Hand-book of Etiquette, and Guide to True Politeness

And lastly, I ran across a gentleman’s book and thought to pick up a copy for myself as well as passing it along to you. I haven’t opened this one yet so it’ll be a surprise to us all. 😉
The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman’s Conduct in all his Relations Towards Society

Posted in History

The Wise Words of Mark Twain

5In celebration of Mark Twain’s birthday (November 30, 1835), we’re going to take a look at some of my favorite Twain quotes. Whether you love his work or hate it you’d have to admit, the man had some wise and witty things to say. 

“Comparison is the death of joy.”

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.”

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

“When you find yourself on the side of the majority, you should pause and reflect.”

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

“Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

“If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.”

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”

“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” *Personal note: This quote sits on my desk. 🙂

“Never try to teach a pig to sing. You waste your time and you annoy the pig.”

“Temper is what gets most of us into trouble. Pride is what keeps us there.”

“Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”

“Sucess is going from failure to failure with enthusiasm.”

“In the long run always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

“The only place where ‘success’ comes before ‘work’ is in the dictionary.”

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t.”

“It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”

I’d love to hear back from you. Did you find a new favorite quote?

Posted in History

Welcome to 1885

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From the Civil War to the present day to 1885. We’re on quite a journey together! 🙂

Those that follow my blog are already familiar with my debut Civil War series and are already anticipating my next project. If you’re new to the blog, you might have missed some of the great Civil War history that I’ve shared with my readers over the last 22 months. If history is your thing, and Civil War history in particular, then I know you would enjoy the various Civil War letters and other tidbits that I’ve posted. Feel free to indulge yourself.

The 4th Monday of every month is history week here and now we have a new era to explore! I’ll continue to bring you Civil War facts and letters but I’ll also start sharing some of the interesting points of my research as I delve into 1885. This is a new setting for me and I don’t know very much at the start so we’ll learn as we go. But here are a couple of points that I do know!

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By British standards, we’re still in the Victorian Era, which is good news for me since I’ve grown rather comfortable here. 😉 But here in America, we also like to call this era the Gilded Age. You can read about how each of these eras break down in my previous post, A Quick Guide to Common Eras in Historical Fiction.

And another major note is the style of dresses. I’ll be switching from the full belled skirts to the infamous bustle. I’ve forever been smitten with the full skirts, but what about you? Which is your favorite look between these two styles?

And lastly, as I study into the social issues of this time in history, I would love to take in as much as I can by reading fiction novels that also deal the era that I’m studying. Can you recommend any non fiction or Christian fiction novels that focus on the social issues of the 1880s?

 

Posted in About the Book, History

When Fiction Meets Reality: The Battle of Chickamauga

 

When I sat down to begin writing/researching for the Ancient Words Series, one of the first questions I had asked was, “If a man joined the Confederacy from Bedford Co. TN, which regiment would he join?” There were two infantry regiments. I chose the 17th and drowned myself in its history. I read everything I could get my hands on. I took notes. I followed their trail like a dedicated fan…because, let’s face it, that’s what I was at this point.

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While my characters were fictional, their experiences were based on reality. One of my favorite moments to research was the Battle of Chickamauga. The anniversary of this extremely bloody battle is today and tomorrow. While there are so many factors to cover, I only want to focus on the experience of the 17th. You can read about Frank Harper’s version of events in my 2nd book, In the Shadow of Thy Wings. I had the pleasure of weaving in several real details into the story.

I also had the pleasure of touring the battlefield for the first time this summer. Here are some of my favorite photos…most of them featuring the 17th! The flag pictured above is a replica of the regimental flag. This is the first time I’ve ever seen it in person. What a TREAT!!
Perryville and Murfreesboro were two significant battles for the 17th. And both are featured in Where Can I Flee.

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After touring the museum inside, we set out in search of monuments featuring the 17th. This was one of my favorite family moments of the entire weekend. We had turned it into a contest to see who could find the monuments first and all of a sudden children and adults that might not have cared in the beginning was invested and enjoying themselves. It does my heart good to see people enjoying history.
*Family Fun Tip: When visiting historical sites with children or history-hating adults, create a scavenger hunt. It worked on my family and maybe it’ll work on yours. 😉

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At long last, we were rewarded with two monuments. There was something so special about standing before a monument honoring the regiment that I’ve spent so much time with.

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We found smaller monuments dedicated to individual regiments around this larger one. But sadly, we couldn’t find one for the 17th. We hiked all over the area, searching for it but came up empty. I’m not sure if there ever was one for the 17th or not. I’d love to check into the situation and see what can be done, but for today, Where Can I Flee and In the Shadow of Thy Wings act as monuments to a now beloved regiment.

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Words can hardly explain and these pictures will hardly do it justice when describing the hilly terrain. I’m convinced any semi-flat area that we stood on was man-made. I stepped off to the side and snapped a few pictures of the area. You can only imagine the additional hardships the armies faced on account of the landscape.

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And here are some cannon shots.

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A trip to Chickamauga isn’t complete without visiting the impressive Wilder Brigade Monument.

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Visitors can climb to the top of the tower. I’d advise you to bring a water bottle and inhaler with you, both of which, I had left outside with my parents. Lol

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But thankfully, I had brought my camera. 😉

 

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