Sunday, August 30, 2015

ARSENIC AND MERCURY, ALCOHOL AND LAUDANUM…CURE OR DEADLY CURSE IN THE OLD WEST

By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Ever notice how possible side effect warnings for prescription medications are often worse sounding than the illness? They range from any number of possible side effects to more serious side effects, including death.

Just the other day I saw a TV advertisement about medication for insomnia. Just one possible side effect among a frightening litany of side effects was the inability to move when sleeping or upon waking. In other words, temporary paralysis. On the up side, the patient gets a good night's sleep. Egads! Still, at least we are informed. Even when one picks up a prescription from their local pharmacy, a printout of information about the medication, its use, and possible complications are provided the patient.

But what about people in the past who knew nothing about possible side effects, placing their trust--and their life--in the treatment their physician prescribed. And, if they didn't have a local doctor, they sought traveling medicine shows or believed advertisements in newspapers from fraudulent companies that mass produced 'cures'.

As a writer of historical fiction, everything about a person's life is researched. Sometimes that includes medication and treatment used in the past. Consequently, it really is mind-boggling to think about how illnesses were treated, and the often fatal effects that resulted.

In the 19th century, especially in the American West, settlers were isolated. Living far from civilization, they were forced to rely upon themselves in times of injury and illness. Patent medicines (what we consider over-the-counter medicines) were not readily available. Some people had knowledge about herbs and plants that could be used for medicinal purposes, but not always.

As more people moved west and towns were established, doctors (as well as traveling medicine shows), arrived and brought with them methods of treatment that were often inaccurate and deadly poisonous. Although most frontier doctors spoke against the medicine shows peddling their miracle cures, physicians also prescribed treatment that was toxic and addictive.

For example, it was not uncommon for lead, mercury, and arsenic—all very poisonous—to be dispensed as medicine.

This begs the question; did people know or understand what they were taking? Did no one question why arsenic, widely known by people at the time as a poison to kill rats, was also being prescribed to humans beings?

Guess not, because doctors prescribed arsenic to their patients to treat rheumatism, syphilis, strengthen one’s lungs, and even told women it would help their complexion.

Laird’s Bloom Of Youth and Dr. MacKenzie’s Arsenic Complexion Wafers were just two brands women consumed as a beauty aid.

In truth, they seemed to work from an appearance standpoint. Arsenic made the skin pale by destroying red blood cells. Unfortunately, the side effects from using these wafers (pills) were blindness and death.

Mercury, known as calomel (pictured), was used for any type of inflammatory disease, i.e., cholera and typhoid. At the same time, it was used to treat gastrological problems. Taken too liberally, one experienced mercury poisoning. Side effects for mercury poisoning include neurological problems such as trembling, loss of memory, and disintegration of one’s bones, teeth, and gums.

Perhaps the most common remedies used in the American West were Alcohol and Laudanum, both of which were dispensed and consumed in great abundance. They were also highly addictive.
Understandably, it should come as no surprise, given the poor quality (or lack) of drinking water and the abundance of watering holes (aka 'saloons'), that alcoholism was a big problem in the Old West, particularly among men. Cowboys, miners, gamblers, ranchers, railroad workers, and just about any man that worked hard in those days would visit the local saloon and quench their thirst with whiskey, or some other form of alcohol.

Ironically, the fact many men drank themselves into a stupor was of little consequence. After all, whiskey was not only considered the beverage of choice, but also viewed as a cure for just about anything. From heart palpitations, dropsy, epilepsy and kidney disease to chills, stomach ailments, and even rabies.

Physicians prescribed whiskey to patients with consumption. Forts dispensed three grains of quinine in an ounce of whiskey on a daily basis to soldiers as a preventative against malaria. The use of whiskey as a painkiller, antiseptic and disinfectant has also been documented—-especially on the battlefield. Considering the believed miraculous benefits of whiskey, as heralded during the 19th century, it shouldn't be surprising that whiskey was also mixed with castor oil to make a shampoo.

Although heavy drinking by men, even to the point of drunkenness, was acceptable at the time, a woman’s reputation would be destroyed if she were to be seen inebriated, let alone drinking in public. This is not to say that women did not drink alcohol. They might take a small shot of whiskey to relieve pain, but more often than not they were prescribed medicines that contained a high content of alcohol. One such drinkable medication was laudanum, basically a mixture of opium and alcohol.

Also called ‘tincture of opium’, laudanum was used primarily as a sedative and painkiller, often prescribed for headaches, toothaches, and aches and pains. Its extensive use among women can be attributed to the fact it was the medicine of choice for female problems—which also explains why so many women became addicted to it.

Girls as young as fourteen were prescribed laudanum. Even infants were spoon fed laudanum. Physicians cited its benefits as not only helping to calm nerves and quiet the disposition, it was prescribed as an aid for childbirth, menstruation and menopause. If one was not careful, taken in large doses, it caused unconsciousness. Many women, particularly prostitutes, used laudanum to commit suicide.

Because of its addictive properties, laudanum use was extremely dangerous. A person could build up a resistance and, therefore, need a larger dose. The same can be said with regard to alcohol use, particulary in the 19th century.

Forgetting the medicinal effects that were falsely attributed to alcohol, saloon keepers encouraged their patrons to drink and gamble. The two went hand-in-hand. The more someone drank, the more they gambled. Even if a man drank a moderate amount, their judgment could be affected and their behavior might become argumentative and excitable. One can well imagine the number of alcohol induced gunfights that occurred. And since alcohol affects the nervous system as a depressant, if one drinks too much they could become incoherent and be rendered unconscious.

Because drinking was so prevalent, alcohol-related problems increased...and not just at saloons. Soldiers at forts often developed problems with drinking, particularly during the Indian Wars. It became so serious an issue, in fact, that an officer found drunk on duty was subject to court-martial or a reduction in rank; enlisted men were fined and/or punished.

It is interesting to note that as much as we might be fascinated about the American West and the struggles pioneers faced to survive, we often overlook the subversive dangers they faced -- often doing something they believed would not harm but help them live longer lives.

Thank you for stopping by today, and I hope you found this post interesting and informative. Just remember, the next time you listen to all those side effect disclosures for medicines today, as frightening as they can be, at least you are being told ahead of time. ~ AKB

Friday, August 28, 2015

AMERICAN INDIAN NAMES AND THEIR MEANINGS by CHERYL PIERSON



Anyone who knows me knows how crazy I am about name collecting. I’ve done it ever since I was a little girl—probably because my own name has such an odd pronunciation. Bear with me if you’ve read this before—it won’t take long. My parents named me Cheryl—but not pronounced SHARE-yl like most people would say. No, my name is pronounced CHAIR-yl. But wait, there’s more! As if that wasn’t bad enough—my dad had the bright idea to use “Kathlyn” for my middle name—not Kathryn or Kathleen—but his own combo. I think he did it on purpose so he could roll the entire thing off his tongue when he got perturbed with me.


Is it any wonder that I named my daughter Jessica and my son Casey? Though that proved to me nothing is fool-proof—Jessica was on a little league softball team with 8 other Jessicas, and Casey had 2 girls in his kindergarten class named Casey. The thing that saved the day was that there was also a girl named Michael—so he didn’t have to listen to “Casey’s a girl’s name”—since it really hadn’t been until the year he was born, evidently.
(CASEY AND JESSICA AT THE LAKE--THEY GREW UP AND DID OKAY!)


I wanted to talk a bit about Indian names we are all familiar with and what the meanings are—I thought that might be fun. Though no one really knows what their children will grow up to be, many of us choose names that have “meaning” behind them. My dad’s name was Frederic—which meant “Peaceful Ruler”—we had great fun with that over the years. Mom’s name was El Wanda—which she always told us meant “The One”—and my dad would say, “Well, THAT’S the truth! You’re THE ONE for me!”
(MY MOM AND DAD NEWLY MARRIED AND READY TO TAKE ON THE WORLD)

But what about some of the famous leaders in history who were Indian?


GOYATHLAY m Native American, Apache
Means "one who yawns" in Apache. This was the real name of the Apache chief Geronimo, who fought against Mexican and American expansion into his territory.
(GERONIMO IN HIS YOUNGER DAYS)

HIAWATHA m History, Native American, Iroquois
From the Iroquoian name Haio-went-ha meaning "he who combs". This was the name of a 16th-century Mohawk leader who founded the Iroquois Confederacy. He was later the subject of a fictionalized 1855 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


NANOOK m Native American, Inuit
Variant of NANUQ. This was the (fictional) name of the subject of Robert Flaherty's documentary film 'Nanook of the North' (1922).


POCAHONTAS f History, Native American, Algonquin
Means "she is playful" in Algonquin. This was the name of a young Algonquin woman, daughter of a powerful chief, who married a white colonist.



QUANAH m Native American, Comanche
Means "fragrant" in the Comanche language. This was the name of a 19th-century chief of the Comanche.
(IN THIS PICTURE, GERONIMO IS ON THE LEFT SIDE AND QUANAH PARKER ON THE RIGHT)

SACAGAWEA f Native American
Probably from Hidatsa tsakáka wía meaning "bird woman". Alternatively it could originate from the Shoshone language and mean "boat puller". This name was borne by a Native American woman who guided the explorers Lewis and Clark. She was of Shoshone ancestry but had been abducted in her youth and raised by a Hidatsa tribe.


TECUMSEH m Native American, Shawnee
Means "panther passing across" in Shawnee. This was the name of a Shawnee leader who, with his brother Tenskwatawa, resisted European expansion in the early 19th century.


WINONA f English, Native American, Sioux
Means "firstborn daughter" in the Dakota language. This was the name of the daughter of the Sioux Dakota chief Wapasha III.


These are just a few of the names and meanings that I found at this site. You might find it interesting to check out the others!
http://www.behindthename.com/names/usage/native-american


I'm curious--is there something odd about YOUR name? Do you wish you had a different one, or are you perfectly satisfied with the one your parents gave you?

The hero of my latest novella, Johnny Rainbolt, is half Cherokee. He needs a wife--and Gabrielle Mason needs a husband--quick!

I'm giving away a DIGITAL COPY of THESE ROUGH DREAMS to one lucky commenter! Take a sneak peek!


When Southern socialite Gabrielle Mason discovers she’s pregnant, she takes her future into her own hands. She has her family name to consider, and a husband is what she needs. She answers an ad for a mail-order bride in Indian Territory. But the man who proposes isn’t the man she ends up marrying.

Johnny Rainbolt is not a family man by any stretch of the imagination…but Fate is about to give him no choice. His late sister’s three children will be arriving on the next stage, and he has no idea what to do with them. When cultured Gabby Mason is left waiting for her prospective groom at the stage station, Johnny sees a way to solve everyone’s problems.

Some dreams get off to a rough start. A mail-order marriage is only the beginning. When one of the children is stolen, Johnny and Gabby are forced to depend on one another in an unimaginable circumstance that could turn tragic… or show them what might become of THESE ROUGH DREAMS.

If you just can't wait to see if you're my winner, here's the Amazon link--it's also available at Barnes & Noble!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B011VHEQ8M



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

REVIEW OF RANSOM CANYON, LATEST RELEASE FROM JODI THOMAS

 


Jodi Thomas is one of my favorite authors. Since discovering her years ago, I believe I’ve read each of her books and novellas. In fact, hers are on my keeper shelf.

My favorite of her early books is TO KISS A TEXAN, part of the McClain series. Even though it was different, WINTER CAMP, the prequel to her current Ransom Canyon series reminds me of that story because of Millie, the Apache captive. If you haven’t read WINTER CAMP, you’ll do yourself a favor to do so. You can find it FREE on Amazon at http://amzn.com/B00U77QXI4 and at other e-vendors.

But that isn’t the review for which I enticed you here today. Although a fictional work, RANSOM CANYON is named after a real location. In fact, the Ransom Canyon I know is a part of Yellowhouse Canyon, which cuts a giant slash through the Llano Estacado. My husband and I grew up in Lubbock, Texas where the canyon was only a mile or less from my home and only a little further from his. Ransom Canyon is further away down Yellowhouse about twelve miles southwest of Lubbock. The name came because captives were ransomed there when the West was wild and white settlers new to the area.   



In RANSOM CANYON, we are drawn into the lives of four families through an inter-twining story about events that unite them. This book has romance, adventure, and humor woven seamlessly into a book I couldn’t stop reading until I reached the end. One of the things I appreciated is the love of the land—the peace, the struggle, the beauty. Sunsets in West Texas are spectacular. Jodi Thomas paints those scenes with words that resonated with me.

Rancher Staten Kirkland is the last descendant of his ranch’s founding father, and a good steward of the land and the people who live there. He’s lost his wife seven years earlier to cancer and his sixteen-year-old son in a car crash two years ago. Since then, he’s a shell who only wakes to life when he’s around Quinn O’Grady. Theirs is a strange relationship to which each clings for a different reason. Quinn was best friends to Staten’s wife, but she has always secretly loved Staten. She always wondered if each time she saw him would be the last.

Lucas Reyes is a young man with goals who is working long hours toward achieving them. His interest in Lauren Bigman, the sheriff’s daughter, leads him on a course he never imagined. Lauren finds this quiet, hard-working young man to be the kind of friend she wants. Lucas, she learns, has the makings of a real hero. Even super-critical Sheriff Dan Bigman recognizes in Lucas a man worth trust.

Yancey Grey is an ex-con running from the past and himself. He counts himself worthless, but he wants more than his past provided. Safety. A family. A community. To stay out of trouble. He figures those things are beyond a common criminal like him.

 Once again Jodi Thomas weaves her characters’ lives together into a story that draws in the reader and keeps him or her enchanted for the entire book. I definitely don’t want to give away anything that would spoil a reader’s enjoyment of this book. Savor each event and hate the wait until the next book, RUSTLER’S MOON, is available. The next release can’t be soon enough to suit me. Without doubt, I give this book 5 stars! If you shop at Amazon, the link for RANSOM CANYON is http://amzn.com/B00SFSL8N2  and it’s available at other e-retailers. 

RANSOM CANYON is also available in paperback and hardcover from brick and mortar stores and online.   


Jodi Thomas, Author

In 2002, Jodi Thomas was honored as a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech. A fifth-generation Texan, she is currently Writer in Residence at the campus of West Texas A&M University in Canyon, on the edge of Palo Duro Canyon—an even greater slash in the flat Texas landscape than Yellowhouse Canyon to the south. A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, she has written over thirty historical and contemporary novels. She and her husband Tom live in Amarillo where they are renovating an historic home and keeping current on their two grown sons.

Here are some of the early reviews for RANSOM CANYON:

“Another winner…Tension rides high, mixed with humor and kisses more passionate than most full-on love scenes. Fans will be delighted.” Publishers Weekly starred review

“Compelling and beautifully written.” Debbie Macomber. New York Times bestselling author

“Terrific reading from page one to the end.” Fresh Fiction

“Jodi Thomas is a masterful storyteller. She grabs your attention on the first page, captures your heart, and then makes you sad when it is time to bid her characters farewell. You can count on her to give you a satisfying and memorable read.” Catherine Anderson, New York Times Bestselling author


Saturday, August 22, 2015

New Release: In His Arms, and the Orphan Train

By: Peggy L Henderson


My recent book release, In His Arms (Book 3 in the Blemished Brides Series) deals with a young woman who is not only facing a physical handicap, but she was also a rider of the orphan train.  

There is so much history to be found with the Orphan Train movement, which gave me the creative freedom to come up with my own circumstances for my characters.
The number of orphans or children of poor and destitute families continued to climb from early colonial days well into the nineteenth century. Private charities were established to care for these children, and the New York Orphan Asylum Society was one of the first private children’s charity, formed in 1806. It required that children be placed as soon as they received basic education.
By 1854, the first annual report by the Children’s Aid Society reported that there were at least 10,000 vagrant children in New York. Publicly funded programs failed to adequately deal with these orphans, which gave rise to over 100 private charities between 1850 and 1860. Many of these charities placed these children into indentured servitude for boys by the age of 12 and girls by the age of 14. Due to the lack of jobs in the eastern states, charities began sending the children to rural areas in the west where child labor was needed. This soon became known as the Orphan Train Movement, a phrase first used in 1854.
These children could be placed anywhere, with no geographical restrictions. The participating charities would ask the families who received the children to sign an agreement that the child would be accepted into the family, but there was generally very little enforcement or oversight.
Committees were formed in towns where the orphan trains would stop, and advertisements would be placed in local newspapers announcing the children. Prospective families could specify what child they were looking for ahead of time. 
The children were usually placed into two groups - those who were selected for adoption and those who were not. Selected children went home with their families. The others got back on the train and rode to the next stop. Siblings were often separated from each other and, in many cases, never saw each other again. 
The orphan train movement ended in 1929, partly due to labor no longer being needed in the west, and railroad expansion in the US was finished and most railroads no longer subsidized the charities for moving the children.

Excerpt from In His Arms:

“You didn’t tell me what happened to your leg.”
Grace glanced down, his words taking her off guard. She shook her head slightly.
“It’s an old injury,” she stammered. “A wagon wheel ran over my leg when I was younger. It was never set properly.”
The corners of Levi’s eyes twitched as they narrowed. He looked unsure, as if he wanted to say something, but couldn’t bring himself to say any more than was necessary.
When he finally spoke, it was a low grumble. “I rode the orphan train, too.”
Grace’s eyes widened, and she stared up at him. The cold air around her vanished. Their eyes connected and held, as if some invisible string suddenly wound itself around them, and neither could look away. She shared a connection with this man through the orphan train?
“How’d you and your sister end up in Montana Territory?”
He asked his question before she could open her mouth to find out how he’d ended up in a remote cabin in the mountains. Grace swallowed back the constricting feeling in her throat. How much should she tell him? Not that it mattered. She and Rose were two of so many who had faced a similar plight.
“I only have vague memories of my life on the streets of New York,” she began. “My family was too poor to properly care for me and Rose. To bring home food, I was sent to beg in the streets.” She sniffed, and wiped the back of her hand under her cold nose, and laughed scornfully. “When a vegetable vendor accidentally ran over my leg with his cart, my father had thought it a lucky turn of events. He said that folks would take pity on me, and give me more money.”
“He never took you to get your leg set by a doctor?” A spark of anger blazed in Levi’s eyes.
Grace laughed again. “He would rather spend any money we received on liquor than getting me seen by a doctor.” She sucked in a deep breath, then exhaled slowly, letting the mist swirl around her face.
“My mother died in childbirth, along with my baby brother when I was about ten. Soon after, Pa left one morning and never came back. I took care of Rose on my own, until an Alms House picked us up. Years later, we were put on a train and sent out west.” She shrugged to hide her pain, and gazed off into the distance as old memories resurfaced.
How would her life have turned out if she’d stayed in New York? Her hope for a future there had been just as bleak as it had been on the journey west. No one wanted a cripple. No one, until Harlan Randall took a look at her during one of the adoption stops. Why her sister kept getting passed over time and again remained a mystery, but then again, many of the orphans rode the train for years, with no hope of finding a family willing to take them in.


Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Author of:
Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance Series
               




Thursday, August 20, 2015

Western Romance in Full Color

by Lyn Horner

A couple years ago a good friend of mine, Sharla Rae, was preparing a blog post on the use of colors to draw readers into a book and help them "see" the characters and scenes clearly. She asked me to contribute a few short excerpts from my Texas Devlins books to help illustrate the point of her post. Today, I'd like to share those bits with y'all. See if you agree that colorful description makes a story more vivid.

From White Witch – on the night of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871:

Bright sheets of fire flapped in the air, frighteningly beautiful in hues of orange, gold and angry red. Flung out by the murderous blaze, burning debris scattered hither and yon, a threat Jessie constantly fought, using a blanket to smother cinders that fell on the wagon.
2015 Cover for Amazon

From Darlin’ Irish in the Omaha Union Pacific depot

Finding a gap in the crowd, David caught sight of a red-faced young corporal. The trooper bobbed and weaved, arms raised to fend off blows being rained upon him by a woman in a brown poke bonnet. Her weapon was a heavy looking black reticule.

2015 Cover
  
From Dashing IrishAt a Saturday night social, Lil’s view of a man she doesn’t like:
 
He was big, with strong, even features and shoulder-length blond hair. In his dark blue shirt with its fancy yellow piping, he was easy on the eyes. He was also vainer than a turkey cock. 
 
2015 Cover from Charlene Raddon
 
Also from Dashing Irish Tye Devlin’s impression as the cattle drive nears Fort Worth:
 
Fort Worth rose against the warm, crystal-blue morning on a bluff overlooking the Trinity River.
 
From Dearest IrishJack is a blacksmith and cowboy on the Double C ranch
 
. . . [Rose] recognized Choctaw Jack by his long, midnight black hair, tied back with a leather thong at his nape, and by the healed red scar across his left shoulder blade. . . . Coated with sweat in the heat from the forge, his muscular arms and torso gleamed like molten copper.
 
2015 Cover by Charlene Raddon

Okay, readers, what do you think? Can you picture characters and settings better if an author describes them in color? Does it bother you when there isn’t enough color description? I'd love for you to share your thoughts.



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Whirligigs Are Love In Motion by Sarah J. McNeal

Now that my new single, When Love Comes Knocking, is released, it reminded me of my love for whirligigs. In this story, the hero, Gil Thoroughgood makes whirligigs and other wooden things for fun. I'd like to share a blog I wrote last year for Prairie Rose about my secret fascination with whirligigs. They just make me want to laugh.

Whirligigs, Love In Motion

I have love whirligigs all my life. I remember going up to north central Pennsylvania on visits to my grandparents. Because of the large numbers of Amish there, handmade wooden items are easy to find, whirligigs among them. Passing by shops with all kinds of animated whirligigs brought to life by the wind, made me laugh.

I suppose I ought to start by explaining just what a whirligig is. A whirligig is an object that spins or whirls, or has at least one part that spins or whirls. There are several kinds of whirligigs that include pinwheels, buzzers, comic weathervanes, gee-haws, spinners, whirligigs, whirlijig,  whirlybird, or plain whirly. Whirligigs are mostly powered by the wind but can be hand, friction, or motor powered. They can be used as a kinetic garden ornament. Some are designed to transmit sound and vibration into the ground to repel burrowing rodents in yards, gardens, and backyards. There are four types of whirligigs: Button, friction, string, and wind driven.



Button whirligigs:
Button whirligigs, also called button spinners and buzzers are the earliest whirligigs. They are very simple. Native Americans designed them with a piece of clay or bone and a strip of hide since 500 BC.  Many children during the Great Depression from the Appalachians and Ozarks made them with a button or coin and a piece of string. They were entertaining toys and I even made them myself.
Buzzers are button whirligigs that make a sound which can be adjusted depending on how quickly the button is spinning and by the tightness of the string. Button whirligigs are still seen in craft shops and souvenir stores in the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Friction and string whirligigs
String powered whirligigs require the operator to wrap the string around a shaft and then pull the string to cause the whirligig’s motion. String Whirligigs have ancient origins. The bamboo-copter or bamboo butterfly, was invented in China in 400 BC. While the initial invention did not use string to launch a propeller type piece, later Chinese versions did. The first known depictions of whirligigs are string powered versions in tapestries from medieval times.
Friction whirligigs, also called Gee-Haws, depend on the holder rubbing a stick against a notched shaft resulting in a propeller at the end of the shaft to turn, as the result of the vibration carried along the shaft. The motion needed to power a friction whirligig is very similar to rubbing sticks together to create fire. Friction whirligigs are still found in craft shops and souvenir stores in the Appalachian Mountains.


Wind-driven whirligigs
A wind-driven whirligig transfers the energy of the wind into either a simple release of kinetic energy through rotation or a more complicated transfer of rotation energy to power a mechanism that produces repetitive motions and/or creates sounds. The wind simply pushes on the whirligig turning one part of it.
The simplest and most common example of a wind-driven whirligig is the pinwheel. The pinwheel demonstrates the most important aspect of a whirligig, blade surface. Pinwheels have a large cupped surface area which allows the pinwheel to reach its maximum speed quickly at low wind speed. I know all of you have seen pinwheels. I used to make them myself out of paper, a straight pin and a straw.
Increasing the blade area of the whirligig increases the surface area so more air particles collide with the whirligig. This causes the drag force to reach its maximum value and the whirligig to reach its terminal speed in less time. The opposite occurs when thin or short blades with a smaller surface area are used, resulting in the need for a higher wind speed to start and operate the whirligig. Whirligigs come in a range of sizes and configurations, bounded only by human ingenuity. The two blade non-mechanical model is the most prevalent; exemplified by the classic bird with wings.



I once saw gigantic whirligigs in a magazine. One of them was a dad holding a kid as if he was teaching her how to swim. The arms of the child were the movable part; they spun around when the wind blew. This thing looked as if it was as big as a billboard. I can just imagine it on the grassy prairie with the grass looking like waves. I thought it was amazing.

Some interesting history
The actual origin of whirligigs is unknown. Farmers and sailors use weathervanes and the assumption is one or both groups are likely the originators. By 400 BC the bamboo-copter or dragon butterfly, a helicopter type rotor is launched by rolling a stick had been invented in China. I have one I bought at a store in Chimney Rock. It’s just a stick with a helicopter-shaped blade on top. I can used my hands, with the stick in between and twirl it until it spins fast enough to lift off.
Wind driven whirligigs were technically possible by 700 AD when the Sasanian Empire began using windmills to pump water for irrigation. The weathervane which dates to the Sumerians in 1600-1800 BC, is the second component of wind driven whirligigs.

In Chinese, Egyptian, Persian, Greek and Roman civilizations there are ample examples of weathervanes but as yet, no examples of a propeller driven whirligig. A grinding corn doll of Egyptian origin demonstrates that string operated whirligigs were already in use by 100 BC
The first known visual representation of a European whirligig is contained in a medieval tapestry that depicts children playing with a whirligig consisting of a hobbyhorse on one end of a stick and a four blade propeller at the other end.

For reasons that are not clear, whirligigs in the shape of the cross became a fashionable allegory in paintings of the fifteenth and sixteenth century. An oil by Hieronymus Bosch probably completed between 1480 and 1500 and known as the Christ Child with a Walking Frame, contains a clear illustration of a string powered whirligig.

A book published in Stuttart in 1500 shows the Christ child in the margin with a string powered whirligig.

The Jan Provost late sixteenth-century painting ‘’Virgin and Child in a Landscape’’ clearly shows the Christ child holding a whirligig as well.

The American version of the wind driven whirligig probably originated with the immigrant population of the United Kingdom as whirligigs are mentioned in early American colonial times. How the wind driven whirligig evolved in America is not fully known, though there are some markers.

George Washington brought ‘’whirligigs’’ home from the Revolutionary War.
By the mid-18th century weathervanes had evolved to include free moving “wings”. These “wings” could be human arms; pitchforks; spoons, or virtually any type of implement. The 1819 publication by Washington Irving of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (one of my favorite stories) contains the following description: “a little wooden warrior who, armed with a sword in each hand, was most valiantly fighting the wind on the pinnacle of the barn’’.

By the last half of the 19th century constructing wind driven whirligigs had become a pastime and art form. What began as a simple turning of artificial feathers in the wind advanced into full blown mechanisms producing both motion and sound. Unfortunately, both the exposure to the weather and the fragile nature of whirligigs means very few wind driven whirligigs from this era survive. (A fate my own whirligigs have met.)The period between 1880 and 1900 brought rapid geographic expansion of whirligigs across the United States. After 1900, production seemed for the most part to center on the southern Appalachians. Craftsman from the southern Appalachians continued to produce whirligigs into the 20th century. During the Great Depression a resurgence in production by craftsman and amateurs was attributed to the need for ready cash.

Today Whirligigs are used as toys for children, as garden structures designed to keep birds or other garden pests away, as decorative yard art and as art.




Whirligigs as art
Whirligigs have become art. A number of museums now have collections, or examples in their collections.

Whirligigs in literature
William Shakespeare uses the whirligig as a metaphor for "what goes around, comes around" in his play, Twelfth Night.
O. Henry wrote a short story called "The Whirligig of Life", about a mountain couple who decide to divorce and the events that lead to their remarriage told from the perspective of the judge.
Lloyd Biggle, Jr. wrote a novel titled The Whirligig of Time as part of his science fiction series featuring Jan Darzek, a former private detective.
In Whirligig, a novel by Paul Fleischman, a boy makes a mistake that takes the life of a young girl and is sent on a cross country journey building whirligigs.
In the Newbery Award-Winning young adult novel Missing May by Cynthia Rylant, Ob, the main character's uncle, makes whirligigs as a hobby. After his wife who loved the whirligigs dies, the whirligigs continue to move and symbolize the fact that life must go on for Ob. I love this symbolism.)

Whirligigs in the movies
In the movie Twister, Helen Hunt’s aunt Meg (played by Lois Smith) has a large collection of metal kinetic art whirligigs in her front yard to warn her of approaching tornadoes. (I loved her big metal whirligigs. They also made music like wind chimes.  They were beautiful.)

Whirligigs as folk art
When whirligigs became recognized as American folk art isn’t clear, but today they are a well-established sub-category. With recognition, folk art whirligigs have increased in value.




A traditional whirligig commonly found in Bali, Indonesia is a musical whirligig of a farmer pulling a bull. They are still available, and are often used in the rice paddies as the sound they make when the wind blows scares the birds away. An example of this type whirligig was found near Clarkrange, Tennessee on the Highway 127 Corridor Sale. It represents an interesting example of a combination of a mechanical and sound producing whirligig.



                                This picture shows the mechanism for producing music

The propeller, the Balinese farmer and the bull are of tin. The farmer and bull are painted but the propeller blades are not. The body is of hand whittled bamboo, fastened with rusty nails and wire and a single piece of string. There are still pencil marks where various pieces were centered and/or aligned.
The farmer is connected to the shaft of the whirligig by a bamboo stick with an offset where the stick connects to the shaft. The result is: as the shaft turns the farmer’s arm lifts from the offset shaft which makes the farmer pull the string which lifts the bull’s head. The shaft contains a second feature, a set of knockers that create a bit of music on raised pieces of bamboo. There are a total of six knockers which strike six bamboo plates. The bamboo plates are raised by placing a circular piece of bamboo or something similar between the knockers and the bamboo base. Each rotation causes three knockers to hit plates so the sound is actually different at each rotation. The knockers are nailed in pattern to the shaft.
Whirligigs from folk artist Reuben Aaron Miller and others are considered highly collectable. However, whirligigs' value as folk art has been uneven. At a 1998 auction at Skinner Galleries a 19th Century Uncle Sam with saw and flag in excellent condition sold for $12,650. At a 2000 auction at Skinner Galleries a 19th-century polychrome carved pine and copper band figure whirligig in excellent condition sold for $10,925 and an early 20th-century bike rider of painted wood and sheet metal sold for $3,450. In 2005, a 20th Century folk art whirligig in good condition brought $2,900 at an auction at Horst Auction Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. (30 miles from my hometown.)





I bought most of my whirligigs for $10-$20 dollars. Those same whirligigs now cost around $58. Just sayin’.



                                Whirligig Kinetic Art Public Library, O'Fallon, Illinois

The modern craftsman
There is still a role for the solitary craftsman, whittler or inventor as evidenced by the following cast of modern whirligig builders.

Lester Gay of Fountain, North Carolina made whirligigs from his retirement until his death in 1998. Mr. Gay’s wind driven whirligigs were made of bicycle rims placed at nearly uniform height to create a "garden of whirligigs". He never sold one personally. At the end of his life there were said to be over 250 whirligigs in his yard. The whole collection was donated to the Fountain, North Carolina Volunteer Fire Department, which sold them off at $75 each.

Near Plantersville, Alabama between 2001 and 2008 Edith Lawrence made whirligigs that her husband Gene sold from their front yard. Gene became known locally as Whirligig Man. Edith's whirligigs were of the wind driven type, typically of cast off plastic. All of the proceeds they earned went to their local church. Edith died in December 2008 and Gene abandoned the business soon after.

Mr. Elmer Preston (b.3/17/1874-d.10/1/1974)lived in South Hadley, Massachusetts worked in a traditional folk manner, with the classic themes of Farmer Cutting Wood, etc.
Ander Lunde of Chapel Hill, North Carolina is credited with reviving the whirligig during the 1980s. A well-known painter and wood sculptor, Lunde won First Prize for a whirligig sculpture in the 1981 Durham (North Carolina) Art Guild Juried Exhibition. Lunde received two honorable mentions for his whirligigs at the first statewide Juried Exhibition of North Carolina Crafts in 1983. Lunde's contribution to the literature on whirligigs is substantial, with a total of eight how-to build whirligig books to his credit. (See bibliography.)

The most famous of modern wind driven whirligig makers is probably Vollis Simpson (1919 - May 31, 2013) of Lucama, North Carolina. Mr. Simpson has constructed a "whirligig farm" on his land in Lucama, North Carolina, which has been profiled by PBS, the subject of an online photographic essay at the Minnesota Museum of Science, and an article in American Profile. One of Simpson's creations stands in front of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. Simpson was named the 2012 Arts and Culture winner of Southern Living's Heroes of the New South Awards. Simpson's farm contains some thirty to forty whirligigs at any given time, some of which reach fifty feet in height. The whirligigs are made from castoff metal machine parts and an assortment of odd and colorful pieces of various origins., He sells smaller versions to the public, but only from his farm.

Pine Shop Woodcrafters was established in 1989 in Bellows Falls, Vermont by John Whitney, and continues to reproduce this early American craft. John's whirligigs are from clear cut pine logs. All parts are handmade (even the crankshaft), and are individually traced, band-saw cut, and hand sanded to give them the best 4 season balance& durability.
Wilson, North Carolina holds an annual Whirligig Festival in November of each year which includes a whirligig building contest complete with nominal cash prizes. The contest is judged in part by Vollis Simpson.

References:
Wikipedia, Pinterest (I did not, however, use any of those pictures due to the unknown copy rights), and my own whirligig collection.
Bibliography of books that might interest you:
·         Bishop, Robert and Coblentz, Patricia; A Gallery of American Weathervanes and Whirligigs (ISBN 0525476520 / 0-525-47652-0); E.P. Dutton, NY, 1981.
·         Bridgewater, Alan; and Bridgewater, Gill; The Wonderful World of Whirligigs and Wind Machines (ISBN 0830683496 / 0-8306-8349-6); Tab Books, 1990
·         Burda, Cindy; Wind Toys That Spin, Sing, Twirl & Whirl; (ISBN 0806939346 / 0-8069-3934-6); Sterling, New York, 1999
·         Fitzgerald, Ken; Weathervanes and Whirligigs; Bramhall House, 1967
·         Lunde, Anders S.; Whirligigs: Design and Construction; Mother Earth News, 1983
·         Lunde, Anders S.; More Whirligigs; Chilton Book Co., Radnor, PA; 1984
·         Lunde, Anders S.; Whirligigs In Silhouette: 25 New Patterns (ISBN 0866750142 / 0-86675-014-2); Modern Handicraft Inc., Kansas City, MO; 1989
·         Lunde, Anders S.; Whirligigs for Children Young and Old; (ISBN 9780801982347); Chilton Book Co., Radnor, PA; 1992
·         Lunde, Anders S.; Easy to Make Whirligigs; Dover Publications, 1996
·         Lunde, Anders S.; Making Animated Whirligigs; Dover Publications, 1998
·         Lunde, Anders S.; Whimisical Whirligigs; (ISBN 0486412334); Dover Publications, 2000
·         Lunde, Anders S.; Action Whirligigs: 25 Easy to Do Projects; Dover Publications, 2003
·         Marling, Karal Ann; Wind & Whimsy: Weathervanes and Whirligigs from Twin Cities Collections; Minneapolis Institute of Arts,2007
·         Pettit, Florence Harvey; How to Make Whirligigs and Whimmy Diddles and Other American Folkcraft Objects (ISBN 0690413890 / 0-690-41389-0); Thomas Y. Crowell, New York, New York, U.S.A., 1972
·         Pierce, Sharon; Making Whirligigs and Other Wind Toys; (ISBN 0806979801 / 0-8069-7980-1); Sterling Pub Co Inc; New York, New York; 1985
·         Schoonmaker, David & Woods, Bruce; Whirligigs & Weathervanes: A Celebration of Wind Gadgets With Dozens of Creative Projects to Make; Sterling/Lark, New York, 1991
·         Schwartz, Renee, Wind Chimes & Whirligigs, Kids Can Press, 2007
·         Wiley, Jack; How to Make Propeller-Animated Whirligigs: Penguin, Folk Rooster, Dove, Pink Flamingo, Flying Unicorn & Roadrunner, Solipaz Publishing Co., 1993




Two of my whirligigs were made by a craftsman in Gastonia, N.C.—a huge roadrunner that unfortunately was broken in pieces by Grandfather tree when a limb fell on it, and an Indian paddling a canoe that I finally had to bring inside to save it from falling apart.
I have a fisherman and an airplane made by a man named Berry (last name now lost to me) who lived in Lancaster, S.C., but is now deceased.

I bought a metal whirligig of a dog at a fire hydrant that I bought in Raleigh, N.C. at a craft store. It doesn’t twirl much now because there isn’t enough machine oil in the world to keep its parts in moving condition, but it will last longer than my wooden ones.
When my whirligigs are in motion, my spirit rises and I want to laugh. I love them. Here are some of mine:



(From left to right) Fisherman, Indian paddling a canoe, and a woodsman sawing wood


I bought this one in Nova Scotia. It's sailboats on a re-purposed wire wheel that makes them all whirl around in the wind. (The bear is actually a little cake my niece, Betsy, made for my great-niece, Madeline for her birthday)





Just another view of them. This one has part of my whale weather vane on the far right



My nephews had just stained my deck here



This is a better one of the sailboats and the weather vane










I have to say, this was one of the most fun blogs for me to write. Too bad I never got a picture of the roadrunner, which was huge, or the metal World War I fighting planes. 
Now you know one of my secret delights. Whirligigs are love in motion.



 Sarah J. McNeal Updated Bio
Sarah McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery, Victory Tales Press, Prairie Rose Publications and Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press, imprints of Prairie Rose Publications. She welcomes you to her website and social media:



 When Love Comes Knocking 
(A Wildings Series Story)

A lonely widow…an indiscretion…a gift for redemption
Blurb:
Penelope Witherspoon was charmed into marriage by Evan Thoroughgood only to learn she loved a philanderer, who gambled away his inheritance and drank too heavily. It came as no surprise that four months after their marriage, Evan was shot dead for cheating at cards. Since his death, Penelope has come to depend on his older brother, Gil. In fact, she has come to love and respect him. No two men could be further apart in character. But, if Gil learns of her secret indiscretion, he will want nothing further to do with her. What is Penelope to do? 

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