Friday, May 24, 2019

Old-Time Photography: Say Cabbage

Never say "shoot" when you mean "photograph," 
especially when talking to a trigger-happy gunslinger.
                                                          -A Vision of Lucy

Recently, it was my granddaughter’s prom night. Students, parents and grandparents met beforehand for three hours of picture-taking.  As I watched the photo frenzy, I showed my age by commenting that Matthew Brady and his helpers were able to record the entire Civil War with only 1100 photographs. I wonder what he would think today if he knew that a simple high school prom required many times that number?

I’ve always been interested in old-time photography and have nothing but awe for the brave souls who first took camera in hand.  Not only did they contend with unwieldy equipment but also dangerous chemicals and exploding labs.
Women had an advantage over male photographers who were often confounded by female dress. This explains why one photographer advertised in 1861 for an assistant, “Who understands the hairdressing business.”
Women also had a few tricks up their leg-of-mutton sleeves—or rather their skirts.  Elizabeth Withington invented a “dark thick dress skirt” to use as a developing tent when she traveled. 
Then there was Julia Shannon of San Francisco who, in 1850, took the family portrait to new heights when she shockingly advertised herself as "a daguerreotypist and midwife." 
Women photographers were no better than men in preventing the cheerless expressions in those early photographs. The sourpuss faces were partly due to the uncomfortable vices that held heads still for long periods of time. Photographers used all sorts of devices to hold a client’s interest.  One even had a trained monkey. Another photographer had a canary that sang on command.  Mechanical birds were a favorite gimmick and “Watch the birdie” became a familiar refrain in studios across the country.
Magazines and newspaper ran ample advice for posing.  An 1877 edition of The Chicago Inter-Ocean advised women with large mouths to say the word “flip,” although one photographer preferred the word “prunes.” If a small mouth was the problem saying “cabbage” would make it appear larger.
Not everyone was enamored with cameras.  One nineteenth century dog owner put up a sign warning “photographers and other tramps to stay away” after his dog had an unfortunate run-in with a tripod.
Did photography have a bearing on the suffragette movement?  Indeed, it did, but it appeared to be more of a detriment than a help.  The photographs of militant suffragettes or women dressed in bloomers did more harm than good.
If you think America was tough on suffragettes, think again. The women’s rights movement was considered the biggest threat to the British Empire.  According to the National Archives the votes-for-women movement became the first "terrorist" organization subjected to secret surveillance photography in the world. 

Photography has come a long way since those early daguerreotype days.  One can only imagine what the brave souls of yesteryear would think of today’s “aim and click” cameras.  Now days we can’t even drive down the street without having our picture taken. Our only defense is to stay home until ready for a close-up. 

 His first mistake was marrying her; his second was falling in love

Thursday, May 23, 2019


Women coming together to quilt is a long held tradition, dating back two centuries or more. These events are referenced in newspapers back to the early nineteenth century, though these gatherings were likely going on long before they were reported about. In the early days, these assemblies were known as quilting frolicks. Frolick: to play and move about cheerfully, excitedly, or energetically. At some point the “k” was dropped.

There were a lot of activities that used the term “frolick” such as corn husking frolick and apple paring frolick. Usually the frolicking came after the main task was completed when the event turned to music, dancing, and playing games. Another purpose for these for these gatherings was to bring young folks together to get to know one another. When people are spread out across the open countryside, a shindig like a frolick was important.

Quilting frolicks became quilting bees. Today we think of “bee” most closely associated with children standing in front of room spelling words. Like frolick, bee was used with many activities including quilting, corn husking, apple butter boilings, and more. The industrious activity of the people working reminded one of an active beehive.

Among other activities, it seems a bit of gossip went on.

Neighboring farmer would unite with their teams when a new settler arrived in an area to help cut timber and build him a log house in a single day. This was called a “raising bee.”

Quiltings were also referred to as quilting parties with much the same goings on as frolicks and bees. Here is a great story of one such quilting party.

Batchelors at a Quilting Party
“… Preparatory to a fair to be given by the Warren Street Methodist Church … twelve batchelors of the congregation were induced by the ladies to agree to furnish a quilt of their own making. Thursday evening was fixed as the time for the quilting bee, and an admission fee of ten cents was charged. The batchelors surrounded the quilting frame and worked conscientiously with needles and thread for several hours until the ladies came to their relief and helped complete the quilt. The quilt is said to be a triumph of art. It is composed of sunflowers, old maids, batchelors, baskets, and other quilt combinations, and will be offered for sale at the fair. Among the batchelor quilters were a railroad man, a printer, two brick manufacturers, and no tailor.”

Chester Times 
Chester, Pennsylvania 
December 10, 1883, page 12 

This must have been quite the sight and the event of the year! My guess is a few of these brave bachelors caught the eye of a young lady or two. I’m going to have to write a story or two about a group of such bachelors. They sound like the kinds of men my heroines would fall in love with.

Frolicks and bees seemed to be events that weren’t in a person’s or community’s regular schedule. Whereas a quilting circle denotes more of a regular meeting of ladies for quilting and socializing. These would be a group of ladies who gathered on a reoccuring basis to socialize and sew.

If this was the case, I wonder how many young ladies sewed extra slow—especially toward the end—so they could take the last stitch.

In my Quilting Circle series, I chose to call my group a circle because they meet regularly, are dear friends, and help each other. Using the term circle likely came from the women sitting in a circle around a quilting frame.

Whether you call it a frolick, a bee, a circle, or a plain quilting, getting together with others to complete a task makes the work lighter and more enjoyable.

Happy Quilting!

THE DAUGHTER'S PREDICAMENT (Book 2 in the Quilting Circle series )

Can a patient love win her heart?
   As Isabelle Atwood’s romance prospects are turning in her favor, a family scandal derails her dreams. While making a quilt for her own hope chest, Isabelle’s half-sister becomes pregnant out of wedlock and Isabelle--always the unfavored daughter--becomes the family sacrifice to save face. Despite gaining the attention of a handsome rancher, her parents are pressuring her to marry a man of their choosing to rescue her sister’s reputation. A third suitor waits silently in the wings, hoping for his own chance at love. Isabelle ends up with three marriage proposals, but this only further confuses her decision.
   A handsome rancher, a stranger, and an unseen suitor are all waiting for an answer. Isabelle loves her sister, but will she really allow herself to be manipulated into a marriage without love? Will Isabelle capitulate and marry the man her parents wish her to, or will she rebel and marry the man they don’t approve of? Or will the man leaving her secret love poems sweep her off her feet?

MARY DAVIS s a bestselling, award-winning novelist of over two dozen
titles in both historical and contemporary themes. Her 2018 titles include; "Holly and Ivy" in A Bouquet of Brides Collection (January), Courting Her Amish Heart (March), The Widow’s Plight (July), Courting Her Secret Heart (September), “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in The MISSAdventure Brides Collection (December), and Courting Her Prodigal Heart (January 2019). Coming in 2019, The Daughter's Predicament (May) and "Bygones" in Thimbles and Threads (July). She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups. Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of over thirty-four years and two cats. She has three adult children and two incredibly adorable grandchildren. Find her online at:

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Other Woman in the Race around the World

Elizabeth Bisland

By Marilyn Turk

You’ve probably read about Nellie Bly, the famous journalist who went around in the world in 72 days to beat the fictional Phileas Fogg of Jules Verne’s book, Around the World in Eighty Days.

What you might not know is that the trip was a race between Nelly Bly who worked for The World, the most widely-read newspaper of its time, and Elizabeth Bisland, the literary editor of The Cosmopolitan magazine.

Elizabeth was born on Fairfax Plantation in Louisiana in 1861. Life on the family plantation was difficult after the Civil War, so the family moved to Natchez, Louisiana when she was twelve years old.  She began writing as a teenager, sending poems to the New Orleans Times Democrat under the pen name of B.L.R. Dane. When her family and the paper discovered her identity, she was paid for her work, eventually moving to New Orleans to work for the paper.

Around 1889, she moved to New York City where she worked for a variety of newspapers and magazines. When the publisher of The Cosmopolitan read about Nellie Bly’s future trip around the world, he decided to make it a race and send his literary editor, Elizabeth Bisland, in the opposite direction to do the same, hoping she would beat Bly’s time. At first, she refused, because she did not want the attention, but finally she gave in. So on the same day, November 14, 1889, both women departed New York, but Bly went east and Bisland went west. 

The World excited its readers by posting sensational accounts of Bly’s journey while ignoring Bisland’s journey. At the same time, The Cosmopolitan’s coverage was less frequent, it being a monthly magazine.

Bisland was twenty-eight years old, tall and elegant, gracious and intelligent, and an avid reader of literary works. Although a beautiful woman, she once wrote, “After the period of sex-attraction has passed, women have no power in America.” She was a hard-working woman, often working eighteen hours a day, and was proud of the fact that she arrived in New York City with only fifty dollars but had earned thousands by her own writing.

Elizabeth Bisland wrote seven articles for The Cosmopolitan about her race around the world. In 1890 these articles were published by Harper & Brothers as a book entitled In Seven Stages: A Flying Trip Around the World. Near the end of the trip, cold, sleepless and hungry, Bisland hurried by train and ferry through France, England, Wales, and Ireland to catch the steamship that was her last chance to beat Bly, only to cross a storm-tossed North Atlantic.
In the end, Elizabeth Bisland succeeded in beating Phileas Fogg’s eighty-day mark, completing the trip in seventy-six days, which would have been the fastest trip ever made around the world, except that Nellie Bly had arrived four days earlier.
She arrived home—as she had feared—famous, amazed to discover people had placed wagers on who would win. She was even more amazed by the number of strangers who sent cards and messages, who simply wanted to see her, as if she were an exotic animal.
Unlike Nellie Bly, who upon her return to New York immediately set out on a forty-city lecture tour, Bisland avoided publicity. She gave no lectures, endorsed no products, and did not comment publicly on the trip. Instead, at the very height of her popularity, Bisland left the United States and sailed for Great Britain, where she lived the following year surrounded by London’s literary society.
When she returned to New York, she married corporate attorney Charles Wetmore, and together the two designed and built an estate on Long Island they named Applegarth. At Applegarth, she became a highly productive writer of several books and essays, writing until her death. In one of her final collections of essays, she wrote “Toward Sunset” in which she observed, “That old age may be agreeable to others and tolerable to itself, no other equipment is so necessary as a vigorous sense of humour.” But old age itself, she was quick to point out, “is not an amusing episode.”

Elizabeth Bisland died of pneumonia on January 6, 1929, at the age of sixty-seven. Coincidentally, she was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, New York, the same cemetery where Nelly Bly was buried, who also died of pneumonia in 1922.
Elizabeth Bisland in later years

Marilyn Turk’s roots are in the coastal South, raised in Louisiana, moved to Georgia, then retired to Florida. Calling herself a “literary archaeologist,” she loves to discover stories hidden in history. She is the author of two World War II novels, The Gilded Curse and Shadowed by a Spy, and the Coastal Lights Legacy series set in 1800s Florida—Rebel Light, Revealing Light, Redeeming Light, and Rekindled Light—featuring lighthouse settings. Marilyn’s novella, The Wrong Survivor, is in the Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides collection. She also writes for the Daily Guideposts Devotions book.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Something to Digest: The Strange Partnership of William Beaumont and Alexis and St. Martin

William Beaumont’s medical training consisted of an apprenticeship of observation more than book learning. The son of a Connecticut farmer and Revolutionary War veteran, Beaumont left home at the age of 22 to embark on his training and career. After receiving a medical license in Vermont, he eventually signed up to be a surgeon’s mate in the United States Army. He served during the War of 1812 before he went into private practice for a few years before returning to the military and being assigned to Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island in 1821.

William Beaumont, by Tom Jones - NYPL Digital Gallery, Public Domain,
In 1822, French-Canadian voyageur, Alexis St. Martin, was visiting the post of the American Fur Trading Company on the island. He was accidentally shot at close range by a shot gun. The pellets penetrated his abdomen doing damage to his stomach and his ribs. Beaumont was summoned to treat him, though St. Martin wasn’t expected to survive. Still, the surgeon committed to the young man’s care, taking time to followthrough and check on him. 

St. Martin did survive, but the wound didn’t close. Instead, the open outer skin of the wound adhered to the layer underneath creating a permanent opening to the stomach called a gastric fistula. When he ate, food fell right through the hole in his side unless he kept a compress over it. He could no longer work for the fur trading company and the local authorities wanted to send him back to the Quebec area. Dr. Beaumont feared he wasn’t strong enough for the trip and offered to take his patient in. He hired St. Martin to be his servant.

By Frances Anne Hopkins - [dead link], Public Domain,
In 1825 St. Martin agreed to allow Beaumont access to perform experiments on his open stomach. Pieces of food on a silk string were dipped into the gastric juices while the doctor observed how he digested the food. St. Martin went with Dr. Beaumont to where he was stationed at Niagara Falls and Washington, D.C. St. Martin eventually married and had several children. When he received word that one had passed away, in 1831, St. Martine wanted to return to Canada to be with his family. He returned with his family to Beaumont where he was stationed in Wisconsin. 

A young Alexis St. Martin By Jesse Shire Myer - A book, Life and Letters of Dr. William Beaumont ..., Public Domain,

Beaumont wanted to bring St. Martin with him to St. Louis, but he was determined to return to Canada with his family. The research finally ended in 1833, when they parted ways.

Beaumont’s research culminated in a 280-page book covering the physiology of digestion, even the effect that mental disturbances have on gastric juices! It was truly groundbreaking research at the time. 

Fort Mackinac
By Drdpw - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Though the doctor sent letters to St. Martin to try and convince him to return for more research, the former fur trader wouldn’t consent unless he could bring his whole family with him and receive an agreeable amount of compensation. Beaumont lived the rest of his life out in St. Louis in private practice as a doctor of some renown. He died at the age of 68 in 1853 from a closed head injury after slipping on icy steps. 

Elderly Alexis St. Martin with open wound.
By Jesse Shire Myer - A book, Life and Letters of Dr. William Beaumont ..., Public Domain,

While St. Martin was occasionally taken to medical facilities for show, St. Martin lived, mostly in poverty, until 1880 when he died. His family made sure that his body had begun decomposing and buried him in a secret grave to keep curious researchers from performing illegal autopsies on his corpse.

Dr. William Beaumont and Alexis St. Martin made an interesting pair, dependent on one another for a time. While they may not have developed a close friendship due to class and personality differences, their strange partnership opened a window on human digestion to the medical community as never done before.

Kathleen Rouser is the multi-published author of the 2017 Bookvana Award winner, Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and its sequel, Secrets and Wishes. She is a longtime member in good standing of American Christian Fiction Writers. Kathleen wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She longs to create characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. She lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of thirty-some years, and the sassy tail-less cat who found a home in their empty nest. Connect with Kathleen on her website at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter @KathleenRouser.

The Last Memory in The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection

Lighthouses have long been the symbol of salvation, warning sailors 
away from dangerous rocks and shallow waters.

Along the Great Lakes, America’s inland seas, lighthouses played a vital role in the growth of the nation. They shepherded settlers traveling by water to places that had no roads. These beacons of light required constant tending even in remote and often dangerous places. Brave men and women battled the elements and loneliness to keep the lights shining. Their sacrifice kept goods and immigrants moving. Seven romances set between 1883 and 1911 bring hope to these lonely keepers and love to weary hearts.

The Last Memory
 by Kathleen Rouser
1899—Mackinac Point Lighthouse
Natalie Brooks loses her past to amnesia, and Cal Waterson, the lighthouse keeper who rescues her, didn’t bargain on risking his heart—when her past might change everything.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Godey's Lady's Book: an Important Historical Record

Fashion plate from Godey’s Lady’s Book (1840)

Welcome to my new obsession! This is Janalyn Voigt, author of the Montana Gold western historical romance series. While researching The Forever Sky, the fourth Montana Gold novel, I stumbled across a valuable original resource. How I missed this record while researching before this, I’ll never know. It was extremely popular in its day.

Godey's Lady's Book: an Important Historical Record

Godey’s Lady’s Book (also known as Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book), was established in 1836 when Louis Godey merged the Boston Ladies’ Magazine with the Philadelphia periodical, Lady’s Book. Godey employed Sarah Josepha Buell Hale as editor of the newly-minted magazine. Under her guidance, the number of subscriber ranks swelled to 150,000 by 1860, just prior to the Civil War.
Fashion Plate from Godey's Lady's Book (1861)
Godey felt that the magazine should strike a neutral pose during the War Between the States (as the conflict was known back then). However, Hale was a devoted nationalist and used the magazine to subtly sue for unity. She used editorials, letters to the editor, fiction, and poetry to support her views. Her efforts did alienate some readers, and the periodical lost about a third of its subscribers. The publication recovered and continued as an influential voice in America until 1878. By then both Godey and Hale had passed away, and Godey’s Lady’s Book was absorbed into Puritan magazine.
Nightcap, Godey’s Lady’s Book (1840) 


Godey’s Lady’s Book is an important historical and cultural record it is possible to view today. That makes it exciting for a historical fiction author like myself. I also enjoy reading archived issues on a personal level. I enjoy learning about history and love cooking historical recipes, for the way they connect me to the past.

Godey’s Lady’s Book provided entertainment, information, and education to American women. One of its biggest draws was the use of hand-colored fashion plates that brought American women news of the latest apparel. Detailed descriptions and patterns accompanied the plates. The magazine also contained historical biographies and articles on a wide range of subjects of interest to women of the day. Topics included dance, riding, hygiene, hair tutorials, remedies, household tips, recipes, house plans and many others. Every issue contained two pages of sheet music arranged for the pianoforte. At a time when people socialized by gathering to enjoy musical evenings, this was important. Besides fashion plates, the periodical boasted other beautiful illustrations.

Illustration; Godey's Lady's Book (1861)
The periodical became an important literary magazine with celebrated contributors like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Nathanial Hawthorne. I noticed during my perusal that poetry, often shunned today, took a primary place in the pages of Godey’s Lady’s Book. It warmed my heart as a novelist to see fiction given pride of place, second only to the demands of fashion.

How the times have changed! Gone are the days when ladies spent time together in the parlor sipping tea while reading poems and stories to one another. But we, dear reader, can recapture the gentle art of living through the pages of Godey’s Lady’s Book.

About Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt fell in love with literature at an early age when her father read chapters from classics as bedtime stories. When Janalyn grew older, she put herself to sleep with tales "written" in her head. Today Janalyn is a storyteller who writes in several genres. Romance, mystery, adventure, history, and whimsy appear in all her novels in proportions dictated by their genre. Janalyn Voigt is represented by Wordserve Literary. 

Learn more about Janalyn, read the first chapters of her books, subscribe to her e-letter, and join her reader clubs at

About Montana Gold

Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, the Montana gold series explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west.

Learn More>>