October 30, 2009

Spencerian Ladies' Hand- Mid-1800s Handwriting

        Period handwriting is beautiful. A long time has passed since such a beautiful, aesthetic hand has been taught in schools. A common script in the mid-1800s was the Spencerian Ladies' Hand. It is a type of copperplate, similar to the kind that our parents (maybe??) learned in elementary school. There were numerous booklets and pamphlets written at the time to demonstrate how to write it. Many men and women also used Round Hand, which is very similar.
      For those of you interested in learning how to write in a period style, Lessons in Calligraphy and Penmanship is an amazing resource to learn virtually everything you need to know to learn. They have scans of original teaching books, as well as modern guides and videos that teach you all you need to know.

I have been trying to learn myself . I wrote out a guide in Spencerian Ladies' Hand (Left.) The darker parts of the letters are made by increased pressure, not by twisting the pen, like is common with other calligraphy "fonts". The nib you should use for this "font" should be very fine with a lot of bend to it. You can still buy Spencerian Pen Nibs. They can also be found by the boxes on Ebay. I just use what I have at hand.   

Civil War Reenacting Writing
I couldn't find many guides that showed the order in which to write each stroke. I wrote out the order that I used to make the strokes. I tried to make the strokes in the most natural way of writing. Hopefully, if you are interested in writing it, it will be comfortable. (We have to thank Andy for the pretty red ink I got to use for the arrows and numbers.)

While I was trying to learn this style of writing, my friend told me about a friend that she has who writes amazing calligraphy. Her friend gave her some tips for me that you can read on my friend's blog, Curious Acorn.

For the lowercase Spencerian letters, please see this continuation post here.

October 28, 2009

Reticule Pattern from 1831-1865

Civil War Reenactor Sewn Reticule        This pattern was originally published in 1831, the book itself was reprinted up until 1865. This reticule looks very  period due to its asymmetrical  nature. Today we tend to shy away from anything asymmetrical, especially in purses. This would be a great reenactment piece as it appeals to the mindset of the time period and not our mindset today.
        The transcendentalist mindset of the period  focused  on the individual person and individuality. Individuality  was expressed through a limited  spectrum (dresses, hair, sleeves, jewelry, home furnishings) due to the heightened discrimination at the time. Remember, anyone wealthier than you, didn't need much of a reason to get you put into a mental hospital and it didn't take much for you to become estranged from all of your neighbors and associates (perhaps why they had such a strong etiquette system.) This reticule is an example of conforming while nonconforming.
        This is a simple project that you could practice your hand sewing on or your embroidery skills.   

From the American Girl’s Book (1831) by Miss Eliza Leslie


           "Cut your silk into three pieces of equal size. Each must be about a quarter of a yard in depth, and half a quarter wide. The sided of each must be straight till within a finger’s length of the bottom; they must then be sloped off to a point. Sew those three pieces of silk together, (inserting a covered cord between the seams,) and make them all meet in a point at the bottom. Put a tassel or bow at each corner, and one at the bottom. Hem down the top, and run a ribbon into it."

To make this really easy, I diagrammed out a pattern. You have to cut out three, I recommend lining it with muslin or cotton if you are going to use silk. The top dotted line is where you will fold to make the casing for the drawstring. The bottom dotting line will fold naturally when it is sewn together.

        I drew out what the bottom of the bag should look like after it's sewn, the picture in the book did not show the bottom well.

There are lots of ways to embroider your reticule. I recommend initials, just in case you lose it, it will be a little easier to get it back. I am embroidering this one with beads but normal thread embroidery would look great too. 

October 25, 2009

Take Nothing for Granted

        I was very disappointed that Andy and I did not get to go to Jim Thorpe, PA this year to admire the "visual cacophony" lingering above our heads. Today was a nice day and in addition to cleaning the yard, my mother and I went for a walk to look at the leaves in the area. The leaves are as beautiful as I have ever remembered them being.

        Sometimes life moves so fast that you notice that the leaves are falling from the trees and think it would be nice to spend some time looking at them, but you never do and soon winter comes, and you forget about it for another year. Sometimes the cycle continues for a few years.
        How could I deny the beauty that exists only a few steps from my back door? I am indeed very fortunate to live in such a beautiful world and have the ability to experience it. Last year Andy and I went with his mother and father to view the leaves, we had to describe the colors to his father, who lost his sight earlier last year after a stroke. What a terrible hardship to endure.
        On another topic, I have always wondered why the leaves change colors and if there was a method to the color choices and times when the leaves change. Turns out that leaves have Chlorophyll andCarotenoids in them all year round.These create the colors that we see. These pigments are normally concealed by the Chlorophyll which makes the leaves appear green. The Carotenoids give the leaves their red, orange, yellow and brown colors.  The Carotenoids are exposed when longer, colder nights halt the breaking down of the Chlorophyll. Fascinating.

Your assignment for today is to go admire the leaves and never take anything for granted.

October 24, 2009

Keeping History Alive: Historical Music

I am in love with historical music. There is a simplicity and beauty that music today does not have. Listening to period music is like a momentary transformation back in time. Cd's are great but I did not know how enjoyable live music could be until I attended a few reenactments where they had live bands and concerts. Previous to that, I had only been to rock concerts and choral concerts. They do not encompass the beauty of a group of friends playing for their own joy as well as the joy of the people watching.

Civil War Reenactor  One of the best performers of period music I have seen is Kent Courtney. He truly has a presence on stage and a mastery of music that comes through on his Cd's. I admit that I listen to these over and over and over again. The great part about Kent is that he performs a lot and locally. If you ever get to see him perform, he will play a lot of songs suggested by the audience which is fun because you can hear a live version of some of your favorite songs. He was also one of the actors in the History Channel program: Stealing Lincoln's Body. How neat is that?
        I am very thankful that some people still take the time to record this kind of music and perform it. It really is for the love of it because, like many arts, music doesn't pay too well.

Irish Civil War ReenactorAnother great musician is David Kincaid. He is one of the best Civil-War-Era-Irish musicians there is (what a niche!) His two Irish Cd's are amazing. These are two more Cd's that I listen to constantly and they never get old. These have really stood the test of time--I've been listening to these constantly since I was High School! The musicians that play with Kincaid are amazing and his voice is just perfect for the time period being portrayed.
      Where have you heard his music before? In the movie God's and Generals. What a talented group!

Pictures are used here without permission. They belong to their respective domains Living History Music and Haunted Field Music. If there is a problem, please contact me and I will remove them promptly.

October 21, 2009

5 Champion Lady Sprinters

        Does society ever change? When looking at the past we tend to see what we want to see, which is normally "a simpler time" or a more moral one. Many people forget to keep in mind that society is still very much the same as it has been for hundreds of years.
        This advertisement from 1892 was published in the Boston Globe. It advertises " 5 Champion Sprinters" which at first seems innocent enough. I admit that I was naive enough to think to myself "How cute, where did the days go when  men would pay money just to watch athletic women run a race?" A split second went by before I realized exactly the type of men were paying for this kind of "entertainment."
        On a closer examination I realized how blunt the advertisement really was. This race featured "Beautiful Ladies" and "Charming Ladies," who appear to be running in their unmentionables. I didn't realize that the "race" was taking place at the "Wonderland and Pleasant Street Musee and Theater." From the picture you can also see what appears to be two men, throwing money onto the stage.
        I admit that I am almost ashamed for posting this. It goes flat against what I want to believe happened in "the good ol' days." A lot of this history is swept under the rug. The fact that "this sort of woman" in the 1890s is wearing more than the average teenager wears today, is another post entirely.
        We should acknowledge the good and the bad in all time periods. I think it is healthy to admire the more moral aspects of the past. We should seek to replicate these. At the same time we need to recognize that the unmoral always exists, sometimes society is more accepting and blunt about it in some decades and secretive about it in others.    

October 17, 2009

All Dressed Up, No Place to Go

            All day at school on Friday, I couldn’t wait to get home to go on our trip to the Cedar Creek Reenactment. During class I was mentally checking off my list of packed items. Did I have enough apples? Did I pack my hoop? Pack the brown sugar? Pack my spare socks? I was so excited and despite the freezing temperature and unforgiving, pounding rain, I still wanted to go.
            We had the tent and everything packed in the car except my stuff which was packed and waiting by the door. I get home from school and I call Andy (my other half) to discuss what kind of German Chocolate we would be making for everyone since it would be so cold. He tells me that everyone we were going with had decided not to go! I was heartbroken. The weather had ruined it. Andy and I considered just going by ourselves but the weather was very bad and we didn’t feel safe just driving the 4 hour drive by ourselves.
            That magic moment, I was talking about in my last post, was extended into this moment. I felt the sadness and disappointment that our foremothers inevitably felt when dressed for a ball, they waited at the front door excitedly, only to have their mother come up to them and say “Prudence, darling, there will be no Ball tonight. There is an ice storm. It would be so hazardous to attempt it. Come sit by the fire, we’ll read Longfellow.”
            I feel like a party is going on and I can’t be a part of it. I would be slightly less disappointed if the event was canceled.

October 14, 2009

1863 Dancing Tips

Civil War Reenactor Dancing
The Cedar Creek Civil War Reenactment is upon us, and as all the men know, that means a battle and an early morning tactical and as all the ladies know it means a Ball.
At reenactments, men frequently discuss a "moment" that they experience on the battlefield, where they simultaneously embody the feelings and emotions of a Civil War soldier. They feel that the moment is real life.
Preparing for a Ball is the time that ladies feel their own "moment." We get lost in the excitement and the clothing. We giggle like schoolgirls, and fix each others' hair and wonder if that special someone will ask us to dance. The moment lasts all the way until we are being walked "home" by our cavalier. It is almost a parallel of emotions that we share with our foremothers, it is truly magical. 
For the occasion, I have included tips from a period instruction book on dancing, by Thomas Hillgrove, dancing master. I have linked to a later copy of Thomas Hillgrove's book; however, the two printings are virtually the same.

 Tips of Dancing from: Hillgroves Call Book and Dancing (1863)

For the Gentlemen:
           -    Never forget that ladies are to be the first cared for, to have the best seats, the places of distinction, and are entitled in all cases to your courteous protection (22.)
           -    In ascending a staircase with ladies, go at their side or before them (22.)
           -    Do not cross a room in an anxious manner, or force your way to a lady to merely receive a bow, as by so doing you attract the attention of the company to her. If you are desirous of being noticed by any particular persons, put yourself in their way as if by accident, and so not let it be seen that you have sought them out; unless, indeed, there be something very important to communicate (22.)
           -   A gentleman should not address a lady unless he has been properly introduced. It is improper also for two gentlemen to dance together when ladies are present (24.)

For the Ladies:
-         If you have in any manner given offence, do not hesitate to apologize. A gentleman on accidentally touching you, or passing before you, will ask pardon for the inconvenience he causes (22.)
-         While dancing, a lady should consider herself engaged to her partner, and therefore not at liberty to hold a flirtation, between the figures, with another gentleman; and should recollect that it is the gentleman’s part to lead her, and hers to follow his directions (23.)
-         At a private ball or party, a lady should not manifest preference for a particular partner, but should dance with any gentleman who properly asks her company (23.)
-         At a public ball, if a gentleman, without a proper introduction, asks a lady to dance, she should positively refuse (23.)
-         On no account should a lady parade a ball-room alone, nor should she enter it unaccompanied (23.)

For Both:

-         Never repeat in one company any scandal or personal history you have heard in another. Give your own opinion, if you please; but do not repeat the opinions of others (22.)
-         Anxiety to accommodate and to make all happy, is a distinguishing mark of a gentleman or lady (22.)
-         When meeting friends in public, you salute them the first time and not every time of passing (22.)
-         In company it is not required to defend friends, unless the conversation be personally addressed, and then any statement known to be wrong may be corrected (21.)
-         An introduction in the ball-room for the purpose of dancing, does not entitle you to afterwards claim acquaintance with a partner. All intimacy should end with the dance. It is proper, however, for the lady to recognize the gentleman, if such be her wish; he, of course, not failing to return the salutation (24.)

October 9, 2009

Dip Pens and Period Inks

         I love using dip pens. It is very calming to watch ink flow from the pen onto the paper.  Contrary to popular opinion, you don't  have to dip your pen in ink after every word, or even in after every sentence. Dipping the pen is hardly an inconvenience at all. It is so enjoyable I wonder why it went out of fashion--that is until I shake a large splotch of ink onto my paper and then smear my hand it in.
         Believe it or not, my other half used to use a dip pen throughout his high school career and  reports only having one very  bad spill in the classroom.  I was not so brave and used a cartridge calligraphy pen in class and a dip pen at home for drawing. I've had very few serious accidents with ink myself.
       Nothing beats the look and feel of pen delivered ink on paper.  It leaves a very crisp line that is slightly raised to the touch.  The inks vary in color but you can always produce some really beautiful effects and drawings with whatever ink you have. Just remember to clean your pens after each use ( I should take my own advice.)

An Ink Receipt From The New Family Receipt Book (1811):

 To Make Excellent Ink.
            “Take a pound of the best Aleppo galls, half a pound of copperas, a quarter of a pound of gum-arabic, and a quarter of a pound of white sugar-candy. Bruise the galls, and beat the other ingredients fine; and infuse them all in three quarts of white wine, or rain-water. Let this mixture stand hot by the fire three or four days; and then put it on a slow fire so as to boil. Stir it frequently, and let it stand five or six hours, till one quarter of it be evaporated. When cold, strain it through a clean coarse piece of linen; bottle and keep it for use.
            The communicator of this good old receipt is convinced that much pains have been taken to ascertain the due proportions of the galls and copperas: for he has found that, on diminishing or increasing their relative quantities as above, the ink has always been pale; but this defect will sometimes happen if the materials be not of the best kind The quality of the paper written on will also make a difference in the colour of the ink.
            The grand secret in preparing this ink, which will never change its colour, if properly attended to, though kept never so long, consists in the keeping free from that mouldiness, which in hot weather particularly, is apt to form upon the surface. The best way, is to put it into a large, glass bottle with ground stopper and to shake it frequently.”

As some of these chemicals are hard to come by today, I've found some receipts that utilize the same chemistry as the original ink. These are quality inks and seasonally appropriate as they require walnuts as their source of tannic acid instead of  Aleppo gulls. If you like the slightly brown ink of antique documents, you will like the walnut ink.

October 6, 2009

Garter Pattern from Godey's Lady's Book 1862

Civil War Reenactor Garter Pattern"A New Style of Garter"
       This knitting pattern was taken from a Godey's Lady's Book from the year 1861.  I was ecstatic to find it. No more tight non-period elastic bands holding up my socks! They look so feminine, knitted with a delicate tassel. I can't wait to knit these and I hope you enjoy.
    These garters make me think of Sarah Morgan, a southern girl during the Civil War. While visiting the army, the buggy she was in flipped over, crippling her for months. She reported of that day not only the embarrassment of being hurt but the embarrassment of losing a garter too: " My garter, a purple silk ribbon, lay in the center of the ring. By the respectful silence observed (by the onlooking soldiers), I saw they recognized its use, so, unwilling to leave such a relic behind, I asked aloud for my 'ribbon' where-upon Anna says the officers pinched each other and smiled."
Civil war Reenactor Garter Pattern         

I drew out my rendition of the garter (above) because the directions were not very clear. The directions should mention that you are using white and a color. I drew out where the colored parts should be, you could make the tassel colored or white.

I also drew a close up of what the loop at the beginning should look like on the needles.

Pattern: Cast on six stitches in colored worsted on fine steel needles. Knit forty-five rows plain knitting. Double this piece to form a loop; take up the stitches on one needle, making twelve stitches in all.
            Join the white worsted: knit one row plain, one row purl until you have six rows; then reverse the rows so as to make a rib he other way: six rows in each rib. Do this until you have thirty-three ribs.
            Join the colored worsted; knit one row plain, then narrow one stitch at the end of the row for two rows; then knit one row across plain, and repeat the last three rows until all the stitches are off.
            Make a short cord and tassel.

October 5, 2009

Preserving Leftover Herbs

     Many people grow their own herbs and can't use it all, those who buy their fresh herbs normally find that they bought way too much for their uses.  If you have lots of leftover herbs, you can preserve them by freezing them into ice cubes. It is economical and tastes just as good as fresh herbs.    
    The "herb cubes" can be added directly to your food while cooking it. It tastes fresh and is easy to cook with. Herbs such as mint, basil, parsley and tarragon freeze nicely. If you use mint, you can add cubes of mint to lemonade in the summer or you could make herb mixtures such as a "spaghetti sauce" mix of herbs.

 Take an ice cube tray or other container, I use a plastic chocolate mold, the size of each cube is a lot smaller than a normal ice cube tray ice cubes and is a good size for a big pot of spaghetti. (I've been trying to find a mold that will make little squares the size of dice.)

Wash and dry the herb. Chop it up into fine pieces (or big ones if you like chunks in your cooking.) You could also use a food processor if you are making large quantities.

Place herb pieces in tray.

Add just enough water or olive oil to keep the leaves together. Place in freezer and make sure the family knows whats in there and not to knock it over. Once they are frozen, tap the tray down on a plate and put the homemade herb cubes into freezer bags or labeled plastic food containers and keep them in the freezer until you need them. Enjoy!

October 2, 2009

Civil War Era Receipts for the Fall

Civil War Reenactor Recipes
 Receipt is the historical term for what we now call a recipe. Since it is getting colder I thought I'd share some Civil War Era recipes that will not only warm the body, but keep us all in touch with eating seasonal foods. We sometimes forget that before there were large supermarkets that imported foreign foods all year round, we had to rely on what would grow locally during each season. We also have to remember that we would have to can or otherwise preserve anything we hoped to have in the winter.

Pumpkin Bread from the Confederate Reciept Book; a Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts Adapted to the Times (1863)
Pumpkin Bread

 “Boil a good pumpkin in water till it is quite thick, pass it through a sieve, and mix flour so as to make a good dough. This makes an excellent bread.”

  • Note the simplicity of this bread. Just two ingredients, one really gets a feel for what southerners had to get by with during the blockade years.* 
  •  This also seems like a good way to get rid of all of the goop inside the jack O' lanterns this year.      Remember to bake the seeds as well.
  • Here’s a modern day recipe with spices galore: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pumpkin-bread-iv/Detail.aspx

Carrot Soup from Godey’s Lady’s Book (1861)
      Carrot Soup
     "Take six or eight full-grown carrots, of the red sort, scrape them clean, and rasp only the outer rind, or soft red part, and, if you have a single ripe tomato, add it, sliced, to the raspings, but use no other vegetable except onions. While this is doing, the broth of any kind of fresh meat which has been got ready should be heated and seasoned with a couple of onions fried in butter, but without pepper, or any other seasoning, except a small quantity of mace and a little salt. When all is ready, put the raspings into two quarts of the skimmed broth, cover the stewpan close, and let it simmer by the side of the fire for two or three hours, by which time the raspings will have become soft enough to be pulped through a fine sieve, after which the soup should be boiled until it is smooth as jelly, for any curdy appearance will spoil it. Thus all the roots, and most of such vegetables as can be easily made into puree and combined with any sort of broth, will, in this manner, make excellent soup of different denominations, though all founded on the same meat-stock. The gravy of beef is always preferred for savory soups, and that of veal or fowls for the more delicate white soups; to which from half a pint to one pint of cream, or, if that cannot be had, the same quantity of milk and the yolks of two raw eggs, should be added for every two quarts of soup; remembering, however, that the latter will not impart the richness of cream." 
  • Regular orange carrots should work for this too. 
  • You are only using the outer shavings of the carrots so the insides of the carrots can be used later in stew or if using you use regular carrots, the whole carrot can be pureed. 
  • Here's a similar modern recipe for Carrot Puree Soup.

Lettuce Soup from Godey’s Lady’s Book (1863)
    Lettuce Soup

"Cut up the white parts of two or four lettuces as needed, a quart of stock, free from fat, and boiling; into this throw the lettuces and a small onion, chopped very fine, and a teaspoon of salt; let it boil twenty minutes; thicken with two teaspoonfuls of flour, first rubbed smoothly in cold water, and a little soup added to it, then strained before putting it to the soup, then throw in a small bit of butter not larger than a walnut; let the whole boil up just once, and serve.

German Chocolate from The Housekeepers Encyclopedia by Mrs. E. F. Haskell (1861)
German Chocolate

“Four large table-spoons of the best chocolate grated fine, two quarts rich milk added gradually to the chocolate, the whites of four and yolks of two eggs beaten light, but not separated; add one gill of cold milk to the eggs, beat well; add gradually a coffee-cup of the chocolate to the milk and egg while hot, beating constantly. Take the chocolate to the milk and egg while hot, beating constantly. Take the chocolate from the fire, keep it hot but not boiling, and add the egg and milk gradually; stir constantly, or it will curdle; flavor with nutmeg, vanilla, or cinnamon, as desired; sugar it to suit the taste. The Germans use no sugar. The egg is to be added just before serving This makes a very delicious drink. Serve in chocolate bowls.”
  • This recipe is a bit confusing, I think you are supposed to heat four large tablespoons of grated chocolate with two quarts of milk. While that heats, in another bowl, beat the whites of four eggs with the yolks of two and add one "gill" of milk.  When the chocolate mixture is hot enough , remove from the fire and slowly mix in the egg/milk mixture, stirring the whole time to prevent curdling. Add vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg and serve in mugs.
*Note: This article is very good at describing the inconsistencies and measurements in Civil War Era receipts:

Civil War Era Socks from Godey's Lady's Book

Civil War Reenactor Sock Pattern
    Godey's Lady's Book is an invaluable resource to those reproducing Civil War Era clothing and accessories. At the time, it was the most popular women's magazine in the United States. In 1860 (the publication year of this sock pattern, the magazine had 150,000 subscribers!
   Each issue included engravings of the newest fashions, fiction, poetry, recipes, drawing lessons, sewing patterns, knitting and crocheting instructions as well as informative articles about foreign  countries.
    I've been meaning to learn how to knit socks. I have never attempted but gosh don't these look warm and fuzzy today! The cold has made me wish I had knitted these back in July.
     If anyone ends up knitting these, I would love to post a picture of the finished project and will definitely post mine...when I get around to knitting them.

Sock Pattern Godey's Lady's BookTo knit this pattern today, you'll need a guide to convert the 19th century terms in to todays knitting terms. This guide: Knitting, written by Colleen Formby is great. She gives the different terms for wool and yarn and a conversion table to convert needle sizes to common sizes used today.

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