November 30, 2010

Mid-1800s/ Civil War Era Marriage Proposals

Marriage in the mid-1800s was complex. Marriages were not jut the joining of a man and a woman but a joining of families, businesses, jobs, and wealth. Love was not the only thing to consider in a marriage. A man was looking for an agreeable woman who could take care of his house and raise his family and a woman was looking for a breadwinner.

Many couples married because the situation was pleasing to them even if they were not in love with their spouses. Love was present in many marriages and love was the main reason a man would show interest in a lady.  

Many marriages occurred as a result of a young man writing  his future bride's father indicating his intentions, line of work, and bank contents.

Marriages were not necessarily arranged but general opinion of the time was that young ladies should not have to suffer the embarrassment of making a split-second decision that she might not think through properly or to hurt a gentleman's feelings by rejecting him in person.  It was proper at the time for a rejection to be business-like and the proposal not mentioned by any of the parties afterward.Only if a gentleman was very good friends with a lady would he ask her before her parents.

It was also acceptable for a gentleman to ask a friend to propose the match to the lady or her father. If the gentleman knew that his advances were accepted, he could write a letter asking the young lady herself or ask her in person. If a gentleman was not sure, he was to write a letter to her father and pray that her father liked him.    

Rings were used during some proposals, simple bands were common and only very wealthy gentlemen gave rings with diamonds. The ring was a sentimental token of a gentleman's affection, intended to only be special to the lady, not necessarily valuable. 

Some Marriage Proposals from "How to Do it," by John H. Tingley published in 1864.

November 27, 2010

1855 Quilt Pattern

Civil War Quilt Pattern
I can't quilt. I am practicing on the simplest of Civil War quilt patterns the one that is used for Sanitary Commission "comforts." You can see that simple pattern at The Home of the Brave Quilt Project.  The Sanitary Commission was a group of Civilians during the Civil War who worked together to bring sanitary conditions to union camps. They also held fundraisers and made supplies to send to the Union Army. Of these supplies they sent thousands of quilts. They tended to use simple quilt patterns because quantity and functionality was more important than beauty.

My attempts with that simple pattern have left me with uneven quilt pieces, pieces that don't line up and fabric that frays until it is nonexistent. That being said, if I could quilt, I would make this pretty quilt pattern from 1855.

It will never happen as the pattern calls for silk and the black cross outlines are made from velvet sewn on top of the finished quilt. How pretty would that be? I don't think I've ever seen a silk quilt, but I imagine it would be very smooth to the touch and the velvet would be soft.I also like the colors that the pattern calls for, they really weren't afraid of contrasting color, were they?   I have always really loved quilts but I just don't have the ability to piece all those pieces together properly. But for those you who can quilt and would enjoy sleeping under a piece of art, this pattern would be lovely and I would love to see the finished product.    

***The Home of the Brave quilt project is actually really interesting. The organization collects quilts made by civilians and sends them to families who have had a loved one die in combat. It is a cool project to be involved with if you can quilt.***

November 24, 2010

A Civil War Thanksgiving: 1862 Turkey Recipe and Cranberry Sauce Recipe

This is a continuation of my last two Civil War Thanksgiving posts:

Note that bread stuffing, sausage, and oysters were popular kinds of stuffing for turkey. Turkeys were typically boiled, roasted, or baked almost exactly like we do today. Turkeys were typically a lot smaller back then, a 10 pound turkey was typical. 20 pound turkeys were reserved for large parties.  

Cranberry Sauce Recipe


-         1 Quart Cranberries, washed
-         1 Cup Water
-         1 cup Brown Sugar


            Simmer Cranberries and Water covered over low heat for 30- 40 minutes. Stir occasionally. Stir in Brown Sugar until melted, remove from heat and let cool.If you wish to serve it in a mold, soften 2 tablespoons of unflavored gelatin in half of the water for one minute. Add to the Cranberries. Once you are done adding the Sugar, pour mixture into a greased mold and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2010

A Civil War Thanksgiving: 1857 Turkey Stuffing Recipe

This is a continuation of my last post. I thought if I was giving a recipe for plum pudding, I might as well give a period recipe for bread stuffing, cranberry sauce and maybe even turkey. Stuffing is my favorite part of Thanksgiving. It is the only part of the year that we make it here and despite what you'd think-- most stuffing mixes have dried turkey fat in them (which I can't eat because I am a vegetarian.)

Stuffing for Turkeys


-         ½ lb. Suet, chopped fine
-         ½ lb. Bread Pieces (half of a normal bread loaf,) chopped small
-         1 Tablespoon Parsley, chopped fine
-         ½ teaspoon Thyme
-         ½ teaspoon Marjoram
-         1 pinch of Nutmeg
-         1 teaspoon Lemon Peel, grated
-         Salt and Pepper to taste
-         2 Eggs
-         1 small Onion, chopped fine


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut bread into small pieces and place on a cookie sheet.
  2. Bake bread for five minutes or until toasted.
  3. Let bread cool.
  4. Once bread is cooled place in a large mixing bowl along with all seasonings, Onion, Suet, and Eggs, mix well.
  5.  Stuff mixture into Turkey to bake or
    1. Sauté in a medium sauce pan for 5 minutes on low heat.
    2. Add one cup of boiling water and increase to medium-high heat.
    3.  Stir occasionally until mixture boils.
    4. Remove from heat once the mixture boils.
    5. Lightly fluff the mixture with a fork.
    6. Cover and let sit about 5 minutes.  

There is a funny story about stuffing that I can relate to you because my boyfriend's mother doesn't read my blog and would probably laugh at this if she did. Three years ago, when Andy and I started dating, Andy told his mother how much I loved stuffing and how it was pretty much the only thing I eat on Thanksgiving. So his mother, in pure Pennsylvania Dutch style, made me 10 pounds of stuffing! :D It was so heavy.

So I brought it to my house and we opened it up and my grandmother says "Oh, no! She gave you the wrong dish!" So I looked in and she was right "Oh, she gave me the mashed potatoes!" I said. Andy ran over alarmed, looked in and said "No-- that's stuffing."

"No, it's potatoes." Grandma and I chimed in together.

Andy looked at us blankly and said "Uh, that's what stuffing is."

Potato stuffing was something we had never heard of here. Does anyone else use potato stuffing?

November 20, 2010

A Civil War Thanksgiving: 1865 Plumb-Pudding Recipe

By the 1860s, Thanksgiving was a widely known celebration but was still not a national holiday. Most states celebrated it on on a different day and it was more popular up North. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday. Turkey, pumpkin pie, apple pie and cranberry sauce were popular items.

These items were precooked and mailed to the soldiers in crates. The soldiers were pleased to receive these prepared items, even if they had been traveling in crates for a few weeks because these were items the soldiers couldn't prepare for themselves in the field. The mailing systems were sympathetic tho the soldiers and most agreed to send Thanksgiving packages addressed to the troops for free.


              "IN the general preparations for the festivities of the day, our soldiers have not been forgotten.What magnificent preparations have been made for them,-- our brave boys in the field and on the march! What generous donations, what inspiring toil have been called forth by the announcement that our soldiers are all to share in the joys of the day, -- that turkeys and other poultry in vast quantities, plumb-puddings and pies "that no man could number," and jellies and fruits in unlimited profusion are to be forwarded to the armies of the North for that day, until no soldier shall be found who has not partaken.

             In this State alone, --and other States have undoubtedly been as generous, -- forty thousand turkeys, already cooked and garnished, have been sent forward, all vying with one another to see who shall do the most. One generous, energetic man has alone cooked sixteen hundred of the noble fowl, others one thousand, others five hundred, others still lesser numbers ; but all the ovens in our large cities have been in use night and day. Single individuals have given turkeys by the hundred, and pies by the thousand. The stream of good things that poured into the depot for our soldiers has been full and deep and wide. Steamers of the largest size have been loaded to the brim and sent on their way, one after another, and still the tide of gifts pours in and is speeding on its way to our brave boys. Not one shall be neglected, -- not one but shall be satisfied.
              May the blessing of our heavenly Father descend in rich showers on the givers and the receivers! May the soldier at his camp-fire, in his tent, on his lonely picket-guard, on his weary march, remember home and friends on that day, as we shall remember them, and be happy!"

1865 Recipe for Plumb Pudding


-1 1/4 lbs. (1 ½ Cups) Raisins
- ½ lb. (¾ Cups) Dried Currants
- 1/2 lb. (¾ Cups) Candied Orange Peel
- 3/4 lbs (3 Cups) Bread Crumbs (make fresh)
- 3/4 Lb Suet
- 8 Eggs
-  ¼ Cup Brandy
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Butter

To be done 3 days in advance:

1. Cut the Raisins in half. Mince the Suet. Cut the Candied Orange Peel in thin slices, if not already sliced. Mix all Raisins, Suet and Orange Peel in a medium sized bowl.
2. Beat the Eggs in a separate bowl and mix with the Brandy.
3.  Pour the Egg Mixture into the Dry Mixture.  
4.  Butter and sprinkle a layer of Sugar in a pudding mold. Press mixture firmly into a mold. (If your mold does not a lid with a handle, you must set the mold in a bag.*. Be sure when you are boiling that the open part of the bag remains out of the pot to use as a handle. Alternatively, some puddings can be made straight in a floured bag, without a mold.)

5. Place the bag in boiling water.  Make sure that the tied part of the bag is kept out of the water, some people prefer to attach a loose string from the tied part of the bag to something sturdy in the kitchen such as a cabinet. Continue to boil for 5 or 6 hours.  

6. Once boiled, hang the bag, with a large bowl underneath to catch the juice until the day you will be serving it.

7. On the day you will be serving it, boil the bag again for 2 hours.  Once done, remove from boiling pot and let cool. Once cool flip out the pudding onto an oven safe dish.

8. Place decoration in the center of the pudding. On Christmas, it is traditionally a sprig of holly.

9.  Ladle a circle of extra Brandy around the pudding. Light the extra Brandy on fire and bring to the table flaming.    

* A bag is made out of a square piece of fabric, rubbed on one side with Butter and Flour. The putting is placed in the center and the sides of the fabric are brought into the center and tied tightly with a string. 

The pudding sounds very interesting. I've never had plum pudding. I was kind of surprised that few recipes actually call for plums. Some food historians claim that many old recipes leave out the ingredients that would have been obvious to the people making them. I disagree, throughout all of my research, when I found recipes that didn't call for something I thought it should, I have found that those recipes did make something correct, we just call it something different now or it was just made differently in the past.

For example, I found a "White Gingerbread" recipe that did not call for any ginger. One food historian claimed that "they" knew to put ginger it in. But on examination, the recipe didn't make what we call Gingerbread at all--it made marzipan. I don't doubt that cooks adapted recipes to fit their taste, adding and removing ingredients but I think most recipes included the main ingredients.  Has anyone found any recipes that leave out something important? I'd love to see if people really did leave out ingredients that should have been obvious to cooks.

*Quote from The Ladies' Repository (Boston: A. Tompkins, 1865), 240-241.

November 17, 2010

Irish Calligraphy

Irish (Gaeilge) is very different from English, there are only 18 letters to work with and yet the letters can make many sounds. The sounds even differ from county to county, confusing! Irish started to decline in Ireland during the 1800s. In the late 1800s, the British stopped teaching Irish in schools in Ireland in an attempt to make the Irish more British. Irish during this time was typically used by only the poor who were more likely to emigrate from Ireland, leaving very few speakers in Ireland.

I found this writing style in an Irish primer published in the 1840s. I thought it was very pretty and decided to map it out in case someone wanted to use it for Christmas cards. Sorry, the second chart is a little hard to read, my printer is broken.  English can be written using Irish letters with a little bit of imagination, for example, Andrew has to be written as "Andriu," and Mary as "Mari" or "Muire." It's a very pretty writing style it is readable to us but is still a little ancient looking.
Nollaig Shona Duit (pronounced  "No- lihg HO- nah ditch") roughly translates as "Happy Christmas." If you want to say "Happy Christmas" to more than one person it would be Nollaig Shona Daoibh (pronounced "No-lihg HO-nah dih-ve.)

*Note: Excerpt from "A Primer of the Irish Language" from the College of St. Columba, published in 1845.

November 11, 2010

The Tax on Light and Air

In a Colonial Era house, windows were the main source of light. Candles used sparingly and fires were too hot in the summer.

On December 31st 1695, a tax on windows was established by Parliament. This was a way for Parliament to create a tax, based proportionally on income without admitting it was an income tax.  The idea of an income tax during the 1700s was extremely controversial. The window tax was the source of many 18th century grievances and was known widely as “the tax on light and air” and “the tax on the absence of property (as a window is a lack of brick.)”

By the 1750s, the window tax had been updated so that any house not considered a cottage was subject to a tax of 1 shilling for every window, plus a 3 shilling flat rate.  Houses with less than 7 windows only had to pay the 3 shilling tax. Unfortunately, this affected factories, multifamily homes, and inns disproportionally and many poorer families could not afford them.  

Many newer house styles at the time, reflected the window tax by excluding windows in their design and many people blocked up windows to avoid the tax.  Poorer families felt singled out as they could only afford to buy older houses which were in the older styles and thus had more windows and bigger taxes. Many families blocked up some of the windows in in their homes, usually at the back of the house, to avoid the extra taxes.  

Tired of taxes? During the 18th century, British territories also had a hearth tax, poll tax, carriage tax, horse tax, farm horse tax, “inhabited house” tax, servants’ tax, clock and watch tax, cart tax and even a dog tax, among others.  

You can really see why their was so many grievances and why taxation without representation was such an injustice. The British subjects were expected to fund all projects that the King and Parliament deemed important regardless of what the laboring people, making the money, had to say. Believe it or not, American subjects were exempted from a lot of these taxes or paid them in a different manner (tax on glass instead of counted windows.) Americans were afraid that these taxes were slowly being forced upon them. 


November 5, 2010

Quakers and Slavery Conference with Historian Gary Nash

I was lucky to get to attend part of the Quakers and Slavery Conference being held at the University of Philadelphia this week and weekend. I got to listen to leading American Colonial Era historian, Gary Nash.

His lecture was about why the first abolitionists--the Quakers have been forgotten in American history textbooks and what can be done about it.

It was very fun, I wish I could have seen more of the conference but I had classes and homework. The topic is really interesting as some Quakers did own slaves, including William Penn. It's strange that so little is ever said about the 1700s-1860s Quaker views on slavery. William Penn did promote "humane treatment" of slaves including the right for slaves to marry and the right to an education. 

It is especially interesting to me because historically Pennsylvania has had a large number of Quakers and had always been considered one of the safer places for escaped and freed slaves to go to. Some people don't even realize that there were slave owners in Pennsylvania or that there were different kinds of slavery. Not all slaves lived on plantations; in urban settings, many slaves did the work of house servants and most slave owners only owned one or two slaves.

Henry Brown, a slave from Virginia, mailed himself to abolitionists in Pennsylvania in 1849. His journey was 27 hours and included transportation by wagon, steamboat, and train until he arrived in Philadelphia. Henry Brown published his story, alerting authorities, to the dismay of many abolitionists who were planning on mailing other slaves to freedom.



November 3, 2010

Schoolwork! The Invention of Air

It's that time of the school year where I have to devote myself solely to homework. :( I have book reports, essays, and tests (Oh, my!)

I am currently working on my book report for history class on the book "The Invention of Air." It is an interesting book on how revolutionary ideas are formed using the 18th century scientific experiments of Joseph Priestley to illustrate how great ideas are not thought up overnight.  Joseph Priestley was an amateur scientist who ended up making discoveries that ended up being pretty important, such as inventing carbonated drinks and discovering oxygen. 

It's a good social history book, it uses a good bit of primary documents but doesn't cite much of the historical facts at all (which many readers don't mind,) but I do. Many of the facts are verifiable, but I really like to see sources in books. Steven Johnson also left out or downplayed the works of other contemporary scientists who were performing similar experiments and 'discovering' the same things.

From a history perspective, the book is interesting but must be taken with a grain of salt. If you are interested in how great ideas are formed and created, it is a good read.

Some lessons that can be learned from the book about great ideas:
  • Great ideas are sparked by networking with other people who focus on other disciplines.
  • Great ideas are formed over many years. 
  • All ideas should be written down. Even mediocre ideas can inspire or help build great ideas.
  • Good ideas come from curiosity.
I really should be getting back to my schoolwork. Unfortunately. I can't wait for school to end. I have a 10- 14 page research paper for next week. I can't wait until I can relax ( and by relax I mean do research for myself and read books that I actually want to read and write what I want to write.)

November 1, 2010

Colonial Shortbread from 1791

Colonial Recipe
I finally made the 100% authentic shortbread that I wrote about in this post. I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, it had a lot of strange ingredients that aren't used in modern shortbread such as orange peel, caraway, almonds and the froth from beer.

I ended up using about a cup of beer froth and I thought it was a good adjustment. The shortbread had a very old, English taste to it. It was a pretty good mixture of flavors and overall tasted pretty yummy. It wasn't as sugary as the shortbread of today.

Colonial Recipes

We don't use caraway much anymore besides for bread. It was interesting to taste it in a desert food. If you don't have the chance to bake it over a fire, it will turn out exactly the same in a normal oven.

Colonial Recipe Cooking in tin has it's advantages over modern nonstick pans; you can cut straight in the pan without worrying about nicking the nonstick coating. Shortbread has enough butter that it won't stick at all.
I hope some of you get a chance to try this sometime. We ate it as a part of an authentic colonial meal that Jodi from Curious Acorn prepared. There was ham, pumpkin and apple pudding (with heirloom pumpkin which was more like a squash,) Indian slapjack (cornmeal pancakes) with quince jam and apple cider. Everything was delicious.

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