Friday, March 10, 2017

A PECULIAR BIT OF TRIVIA


A Peculiar Bit of Trivia                By E. Ayers




A little glitch getting to the blog, but thanks to Caroline, I made it, and I'm so excited to be here. When Caroline Clemmons and Celia Yeary asked me to become a permanent part of the Sweethearts of the West, I was thrilled. Writing historical westerns is…let's just say I have a quirky mind and I think it shows in what I write. I write historical westerns with a love story tucked in it. Surely, you will discover that as you read my posts and my books, and I hope you will do both!
As a child, the dictionary and the encyclopaedia were my friends. Homework took me
forever! I never could spell, so if I asked how do you spell… The answer was the same - look it up. I think my parents figured if I looked everything up, I'd eventually learn to spell. (Thank goodness for today's spellcheckers. Between my inability to spell and my fingers getting tangled on the keyboard, I'd be in so much trouble.) But back then, I'd look up a word and read every word on that page. (No wonder it took me so long to do homework.) Plus, I loved those ink drawings. If there were none on the page I was reading, I’d read until I found one. (I had a great vocabulary, but I couldn't spell!) And when I was really bored, I'd read the encyclopaedia. Well one thing leads to another and my mind would take off, sending me to look up other things.
In school, I was taught it's not how much you know, but often how fast can you find the answer. That premise is becoming obsolete with the computer and Internet search engines. But the Dewey Decimal System was like a neon lure to my young fertile mind. It was as though the entire world's database of knowledge was in those card files. I soon discovered that knowledge was fun. To this day, I love knowing how stuff works. Why did gold form here and diamonds there? How does steam turn motors? Who figured out you could burn coal? Who figured out oysters were edible? And how did they get that center in the dessert?
As an adult, I continued with my strange desire to know about things and often experimented in the kitchen with such things as yeast. I wanted to know if I could grow it from scratch. My garden became organic, because I couldn't afford chemicals and I didn't want to use them. Lack of garden space had me looking up information on companion plantings. Today, I know how to create yeast from scratch. I've made my own candles and soaps - not out of need, but because I thought it was fun learning how-to. Those are the tidbits I pull on as I write.
And when I do stop to research something, I often wind up discovering something else. Will I ever need to know about staplers for my writing? Probably not, but it's stored in my head, in case I do. Except by then, I’ll forget his name, because I'm terrible with names, so I’ll have to do another search. It was a search for information about early sewing machines for home use that sent me down the path of looking at safety pins.
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Walter Hunt was one of those men who stand out in history for the oddest reasons. Some say he was a genius, while others claim he lacked business sense. He was definitely a colorful character in our American history for he was an inventor. He had the ability to see a need for things and to
create them. A sewing machine, a streetcar bell, a snowplow, a repeating rifle, and several more items were all his designs. But what is he best known for? The lowly little safety pin! The reason he became famous was he sold his patent for that coiled bit of wire to a man that Hunt owed $15. The man graciously bought the patent for $400 and went on to become a millionaire. (History is unclear as to the exact amount of money exchanged. Was the sale price $415 dollars or $385?) So what was in use before Walter's Hunt invention that keep fingers safe from pricks?
Go way back in history a few thousand years and there was the straight pin. They didn't have buttons as fasteners for clothing back then. Buttons were only decorations. In fact, it would take until the thirteenth century AD before buttons and buttonholes were used for securing clothing tightly to the body. (I wonder who decided that you could take a decorative button, push it though a slit in the material, and it would hold? And why did it take them so darn long to figure that out?)
It was in the fourteenth century BC that clasp-like things appeared. They were used mostly to keep clothes closed, especially cloaks. (Try saying clasps keep clothes closed, especially cloaks really fast three times.) Often the clasps were coiled things that swirled into fabric. But eventually they began to resemble a violin bow or bow saw in shape. They kept clothing closed and became decorative items.
So up until Walter Hunt decided to play with some wire, there was a little spring-loaded or a
U.S. Patent Office - inventor Walter Hunt
hinged pin used for brooches. The sharp point merely slipped under a flat plate. Well, I can image that that poky point slipped out frequently and stabbed the wearer. So Walter Hunt's little patent on the safety pin changed history.
And it wasn't until Samuel Slocum came along in the 1800's and invented a machine that would make pins with heads did we finally have what we now know as straight pins used in sewing. (He’s the one who invented the stapler.) Slocum didn't invent the pin with the head, that was William Lockwood in 1772, Slocum merely figured out how to make them quickly and cheaply.
So what do all these odd facts have to do with the West? Lots and nothing. It meant women could stop tying diapers on their babies and use a safety pin. (Although mothers would have to wait a bit before they had a locking cap on that pin.) And those women who quilted had a pin that wouldn't vanish into the fabric as they worked. It was a fascinating time in history because of manufacturing and all the advancements. These things trickled into society and made life easier. But not every woman had them.
To add a bit of humor into the mix, pin money meant they had an extra penny or two left in the budget to buy pins or some other "extravagant" item. Think purchasing power or the flow of money out of the budget. Egg money came from selling eggs giving an income or money coming into the household budget. Yes, nest egg is the result of saving egg money.
And as for that mousetrap? They've been around for hundred's of years. But that simple snap trap hasn't. We have to wait until 1894 when William C. Hooker invented the spring-loaded snap trap that is close to what is in use today.
It's all a bit convoluted, but it does affect our stories. So what starts as a simple decision to check the facts on something small, sends us down strange paths. Did you know that the kilt pin was never used to pin both pieces of fabric together? When will I ever need that piece of trivia? Aye, maybe when Hamish Campbell decides to settle Creed's Crossing, Wyoming. Or maybe not. I don't want to think about his kilt flapping in the Wyoming breeze!

23 comments:

  1. I had to laugh because I spent way too much time looking up words. I always did well spelling, but our eldest daughter did not until we talked her into taking Latin in high school. Learning roots of words helped her tremendously.

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    1. I think I had a mental block about spelling. To this day I can usually grab the dictionary under my desk and look a word up faster than I can click my way to merriam-webster.com and try spelling it, because you have to know how to spell it to look it up! :-)

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    2. You speak the truth and you make it funny. Mama worked at the Mercer University library, so I had special access to books.

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    3. Hi, Mary! Thanks so much for following me over here. You probably noticed I still can't use commas as I should. TG for editors!!! Besides we keep people like you laughing at our misplaced modifiers. :-)

      And where would any of us be without books and libraries? That's why I do everything I can to support my local library systems!

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  2. Hey, I like the idea of a kilt blowing in the breeze. Research is 50% of the fun of writing.

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    1. Depends upon which guy is wearing the kilt! (wink)

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  3. I am an excellent speller. While teaching in one local school system, someone decided to have the teachers in a Spelling Bee...the school was small, so only about 20 teachers took part. Who won? Me, of course...I am a great speller. But there's one word I can never spell, and the is "eighth." Spell checker tells me it's right...but before spell check? I think I always left out the first "h."
    And so, the lowly safety pin is the star of the show. Isn't this fun? I love your posts and this one is just too good. Thanks. And welcome to Sweethearts of the West!

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    1. I usually do better with those really long words, it's those short ones that nail me most of the time, words such as whether or ellipse.

      Thank you for the welcome and your kind words about my posts. I'm thrilled to be here with all of you who work so hard to keep our stories historically correct! It takes a little extra work but it really makes the reading so much richer.

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  4. First I want to welcome you to Sweethearts. Second, I want to say I loved your post, especially about the kilt pin. Being a Scot I found that interesting and I will pass the info along to the dear one I gave the kilt to. I noticed he took the pin off...I had it holding the kilt together so as to alleviate any chance of embarrassment. :)

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    1. Oh, Paisley. I'll send you the link to the info. In theory, the weight of the pin helps to keep the kilt from opening and if the material is pined together there is a chance of ripping the kilt.

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  5. Welcome to PRP. This is one great place to be!!

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  6. Did somebody say kilt??? Oooh, let the wind blow!

    Welcome to Sweethearts, E. Looking forward to more fun posts from you.

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    1. Isn't it enough with the American Indians wearing wearing that little flap (in the summer) that barely covers anything? There's nothing under that piece of leather except the man wearing it. Oh my!

      History is fun! Unfortunately it's not taught that way in schools. But along with the fun stuff, there's lots of sadness. People were extremely cruel to each other, and living life was tougher than many people realize.

      How many times have we passed up a pretty blouse because it says hang dry? Or we bought it and decided to try using the dryer set on air only? May I pass the washboard to you? Would you like to put the baby in the laundry basket, carry the basket with the baby in it, hold the toddler's hand, and walk a mile to the creek to wash your clothes? No thanks! I love my washer and dryer too much! :-)

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  7. Welcome to Sweethearts of the West, Elizabeth! In my welcome message on line I asked you to tell us more about yourself and then I realized you already had a blog posted--so I got here ASAP to read it and saw everyone else had beat me here. LOL

    I'm a horrible speller, too. I also mispronounce words often because I've only read them, not heard them.

    We had an old, outdated set of Colliers Encyclopedia at home, but because it was old, the facts were often incorrect. I wrote a bunch of reports with outdated info in them. So, thank goodness for the internet--although way too late for me as far as school is concerned. I grew up in a computerless world.

    Those wire mousetraps have now been updated to plastic snap traps, and even better, there is this weird little device you can plug into any outlet that makes an inaudible sound neither humans or dogs and cats can hear, but repels mice. Technology sure is making me feel old.

    And I really liked the info about the invention of the safety pin. Dang, where would we be without that? Even in our high tech world, things still need fixin' on the fly and that safety pin comes in mighty handy.

    I'm so glad you joined us here at Sweethearts of the West, Elizabeth. BTW, do you want us to call you Elizabeth or something else? All the best!

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    1. Thank you, Sarah!

      I answer to E or Elizabeth. I've always joked that it didn't matter as long as you call me to supper.

      I had an old set of Colliers, too. I didn't even remember the name until you wrote it. And in my father's office there was a dictionary from 1889 and it went from air gun to air pump. So for fun, I looked up flying machines. It said up until that time all attempts had been failures. As a dictionary it was useless, but it was interesting to see the changes in word usage and in many ways changes in attitudes. I so wish I had that book today!

      If it doesn't move and should use WD40.
      If it moves and shouldn't use duct tape.
      If it is cloth, safety pins usually fix it.
      :-)

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  9. Howdy, Elizabeth! Welcome to Sweethearts. What an interesting post. I love historical trivia -- so much so that I often find myself down a rabbit hole chasing something shiny and completely forget what I started out to research. :-D

    As for spelling... I always get tripped up by "occasional." For some reason, my addled brain wants to double the S and not the C. :-\

    It's good to meet you! :-)

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    1. Ah, yes, follow the shiny ball! Four hours later we emerge and remember what it was that started the search.

      Oh so often misinformation is perpetuated across the web. Digging for the truth is can be difficult. It's a little like finding rubies in the schist. But digging is part of the fun. Of course our characters get a little antsy waiting for us to come back to them! :-)

      I'm so pleased to be here, Kathleen. Such fun sharing with all of you.

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  10. Please forgive the deletes. I had too many typos. Sheesh. Anyway, I enjoyed all the info in this post today! Enjoy your stay in this corral of wonderful authors!

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    1. You must have tangling fingers, too! I think it's the brain working faster than the fingers. ;-)

      Thank you. I'm honored to be he here with all these wonderful authors, and I'm thrilled to meet at the readers here.

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  11. Hi E and welcome to our blog. I not only enjoyed your post here but also reading more about you (and how you came about using the pen name, "E") in our Yahoo group.

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