Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Real McCoy

Today we have a guest blogger, Lyn Cote shares with us about "The Real McCoy." Thanks Lyn, for stepping in.

Historical Research is My Kind of Fun!

I have a Masters in American History and my idea of fun is to spend hours deep in the back of a library or in the heart of a local museum. On a trip to Florida, my husband and I managed to stop at the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois, the Chickamauga Battlefield in Georgia and finally Andrew Jackson’s estate, The Hermitage, near Nashville. (Can you believe that the wallpaper hung in that antebellum house is still on the walls? No peeling and still looks good--AMAZING!)

Using Authentic Language

It is always so interesting to research the language of a time period. For example, I had wanted to use the phrase “the real thing,” in my latest book, The Baby Bequest, but after some research, I discovered that phrase came into use much later than when this story takes place. I don’t like to use phrases that aren’t historically grounded.

The Real McCoy

So I substituted “the real McCoy,” and discovered that this phrase came into use because of Elijah McCoy, an African-American born in Ontario, Canada, in 1844, the son of runaway slaves. Educated in Scotland as a mechanical engineer, Elijah McCoy settled in Detroit. Unable to get a job as a mechanical engineer because of racial prejudice, he worked for the railroad as an “oiler.”

You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down

While working there, he invented a cup that would regulate the flow of oil onto moving parts of industrial machines, first the train engine. This invention distributed oil evenly over the engine's moving parts. He obtained a patent for this invention, which allowed trains to run continuously for long periods of time without pausing for maintenance.
The term “real McCoy” refers to Elijah’s oiling device. It became so popular that people inspecting new equipment would ask if the device contained “the real McCoy.”
How about that?

For more information, go to

So that’s what makes me smile.

Finding out something I never knew before and usually it’s so much more than I expected!

Have you ever visited a national historic site or a particularly interesting small museum or local historical site? Please share what you learned or what surprised you.--Lyn

PS: My upcoming historical is BLESSING, the second in my “Quaker Brides” series about a family who works for abolition and equal rights for all in mid-19th century America. Also if you drop by my website and subscribe to my enewsletter, I’ll send you a PDF copy of “Old Family Recipes.” 15 Love Inspired Historical authors (including me) put together our old favorite family recipes and the stories behind them.


  1. Hi Lynn, thank you for guesting today. I love learning the history behind our language.. I don't think I've ever used that particular phrase in my books, but I will in the future--to honor the man behind it. :)

  2. Love this, Lyn! I'll bet Walter Brennan is smiling.

  3. I especially love the Sigal Museum in Easton, Pennsylvania, where there's a lot of my family's history. Thanks for the blog!

  4. I have a living history museum near where I live in East Tennessee. When my grandchildren went to day camp there, I learned many different string and finger games. The children kept busy for hours with all the variations. I love visiting historic places. Your trip included some great places to visit.

  5. I was amazed at the wallpaper on the walls of the Hermitage, too. On that trip we first went to Elvis' home in Memphis then up to Williamsburg, VA and all that's around there, then Mount Vernon, all the great monuments in D.C., Arlington Cemetery and Lee's home. I had forgotten how Lee had lost his home. When we got back to Nashville and the Hermitage, my cousin left there saying that was the last home and grave of a dead person she wanted to see. Of course I loved every minute of it. Do you ever stop, look at the rooms or displays and start having images and conversations in your mind about how things would play out in a story? It drives my family nuts when I do that. :)

  6. We have visited National Historic Sites and the last one was the Hubbard Trading Post in Ganado, AZ. I enjoyed the home built there with the farm animals, farm machinery and the trading post, which is still operating. sm wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

  7. Sorry I couldn't check in earlier. I was traveling. Great comments! THANKS!