Sunday, December 16, 2018

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Suspenders by Kaye Spencer #trivia #sweetheartsofthewest #fashionhistory

"First Suspenders" Public Domain Image


Suspenders (aka braces and galluses) have been around for centuries as a practical means of holding up one's britches, particularly because of the high waists on men's trousers before belts and belt loops became functionally popular, which was roughly around World War I, when soldiers were introduced to uniform belts. Since the 1920s, suspenders have continued to ride a roller coaster of fashion popularity.

An article on the website Time.com (HERE) offers this tidbit about the origins of suspenders along with an amusing anecdote:

The first suspenders can be traced to 18th century France, where they were basically strips of ribbon attached to the buttonholes of trousers. Benjamin Franklin is said to have worn them — although it's probably best not to ask how historians know that; back then, suspenders were considered an undergarment never to be seen in public. In fact, visible suspenders were considered risqué as recently as 1938, when a town in Long Island, NY tried to ban gentlemen from wearing them without a coat, calling it "sartorial indecency."


This article goes on to explain that in the 1820s, a British designer named Albert Thurston manufactured suspenders as we know them, which brings me to Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka author Mark Twain, as an inventor of an alternative idea for suspenders.

Samuel Clemens (Public Domain)

Clemens received his first patent (#1221992) on December 19, 1871 for an alternative to suspenders, which he reportedly loathed entirely as miserably uncomfortable. He called this invention an "Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments" (ADSG). However, as with many inventions, the original designs are often adapted and the inventor's intent is either lost completely or altered in new and interesting ways.

Suspenders in Hollywood:

John Wayne*
Humphrey Bogart**


Add caption
Clemens' suspenders patent didn't catch on for suspenders. According to an article from Smithsonian Magazine (HERE):

His “improvement in adjustable and detachable straps for garments” was a button-on adjustable strap that could be used to tighten garments–it could pinch a shirt at the waist, for example. “The advantages of such an adjustable and detachable elastic strap are so obvious that they need no explanation...” It would also be simple to make non-elastic detachable straps, Clemens wrote, “but I prefer to make them elastic.”

An article in The Atlantic Monthly (HERE) explained it this way:

Clemens designed the adjustable and detachable strap to be used from one garment to another in order to 'fix' whatever clothing issue the wearer encountered. However, he did not elaborate on exactly how his invention should be used. He wrote that the "advantages of having a stretchy strap for any item is so obvious that they need no explanation."
  
His invention 'ADSG' did not catch on for pantaloons, suspenders, or vests. It did, however, find its niche with one particular garment: the brassiere. So, now you know who to thank, or cuss, for how a traditionally designed bra fastens.




ADSG Patent Image
On a side note, the other patents Clemens received were for a self-pasting scrapbook technique (1873) and a history trivia game (1875). He made $50,000 from the scrapbook invention. His other inventions either cost him money in the long run or simply didn't work. The website ThoughtCo.com has more information about his other inventions and investments-gone-wrong HERE.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time

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Resources/References
Shop Mr & Mrs Renaissance - https://www.mrm-accessories.com/blog/2015/1/5/the-look-and-history-of-suspenders-braces
Smithsonian.com - SmartNews - https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-mark-twains-hatred-suspenders-drove-him-invent-180967577/
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office - https://www.uspto.gov/about-us/news-updates/mark-twain-granted-his-first-patent-december-19-1871
The Atlantic - https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/07/celebrity-invention-mark-twains-elastic-clasp-brassiere-strap/241267/
Time.com - http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2037331,00.html

ThoughtCo.com - https://www.thoughtco.com/what-were-mark-twains-inventions-740679
Images:
First Suspenders image Public Domain - Miscellaneous Items in High Demand, PPOC, Library of Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Samuel Clemens - Public Domain image: Unknown author, MarkTwain.LOC, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons
*John Wayne imbd - https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000078/mediaviewer/rm2120462592
**Humphrey Bogart - https://goo.gl/images/KU44HM
Openclipart.com - 'wow'

Friday, December 14, 2018

AN AMERICAN FRONTIER CHRISTMAS by Shirleen Davies


In the first half of the 19th century, as more Americans started to celebrate the holiday again, they transformed Christmas from a noisy festival into a day to celebrate family, friends, and goodwill.

When American Style Christmas Celebrations Began
In the early 1800s a person's religious beliefs played a major role in how they celebrated the holiday. For instance, Protestants like Episcopalians and Moravians, held religious services at Christmas and got into the spirit of the holiday by putting up seasonal decorations. Other denominations honored the holiday with music, parties, eating, and drinking. Calvinist Christians and many other puritan based communities didn’t celebrate the day at all.

Early 19th Century Christmas
Before the Civil War, Christmas was celebrated differently in the North than the South. Northerners who lived in states with puritan influences didn’t observe the holiday and felt Thanksgiving was a more appropriate holiday to celebrate.

For most Southern Americans, Christmas was a major community event with parties, get-togethers, and gatherings. In fact, the first states to make Christmas a legal holiday were Dixie states: Alabama in 1836, followed by Louisiana and Arkansas in 1838. By 1860, 14 other states had followed. And, in 1870, Christmas was officially proclaimed a federal holiday by President Ulysses Grant.

Christmas Party
 New Christmas songs came out, American carols rather than English ones, such as “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear “written in 1849 by Edmund Sears, a Unitarian Church pastor. Seven years later “Jingle Bells” was composed by James Lord Pierpont, who was J. P. Morgan’s uncle. And, a year later, John Henry Hopkins Jr. clergyman and hymnodist wrote “We Three Kings of Orient Are” as part of a Christmas pageant for his nieces and nephews.

Children's books played a key role in spreading Christmas traditions, especially those of trimming the trees and of Santa Claus bringing gifts. From the 1800’s to the 1940’s, a children's journal called “St. Nicholas”, written and designed for families out West who lived in isolated areas, offered 500 pages of stories, poetry, contests, games, and crafts. It proved exceptionally helpful in keeping children entertained during the long winter months on the frontier.

Also, Christian denominations began to put aside religious distinctions regarding the meaning of Christmas and celebrated the holiday in Sunday school classes. Women's magazines ran features on decking the halls for the holidays, as well as articles on how to create these decorations.

Traditions
Christmas developed into an important holiday for families to celebrate at home. Influenced by German immigrants, Americans began setting up an evergreen tree in their house for the holiday and putting small candles, sweets, and toys on its branches. The 14th President of the United States, Franklin Pierce, is credited as the first one to set up a Christmas tree in the White House. Christmas Trees were first sold commercially in the United States in 1851 and were randomly cut down from the forests.

Community Christmas
Americans also began to follow the European tradition of giving Christmas gifts. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Americans enthusiastically decorated trees, caroled, baked, and shopped for the Christmas season.

How They Celebrated the Holiday
In the mid-1800s, the pioneers, cowboys, explorers, and mountain men, who blazed trails to the west, held modest but merry Christmas celebrations. On the frontier, you could find soldiers at out-of-the-way outposts singing Christmas carols and roasting a holiday dinner of venison over an open hearth. And, pioneer families in rugged log cabins making presents for each other. Though they didn’t have sparkly trimmings or bountiful feasts, their Christmas traditions, like our modern ones, involved family, food, and fun.

These settlers were far away from their families in the East and didn’t have a lot of goods or money on hand to have a big Christmas celebration. Food, gifts, and decorations were hard to come by on the frontier, so they had to be creative in making their own. Hardy pioneers decorated their homes with whatever they could find: boughs of evergreens, pinecones, holly, nuts, berries, or hand cut snowflakes. Some might even have a Christmas tree they’d decorate with clipped pictures, old buttons, lace, ribbons, strings of apples, paper chains, yarn, berries, popcorn, dried fruit, and homemade ornaments crafted of cloth or carved wood or dolls made of straw. Cookie dough ornaments and gingerbread men were also popular. For those who set candles on their Christmas tree, they lit them just once, then dimmed them to prevent a fire.
A Family Christmas

Some pioneers lived where wood was too scarce for them to have a Christmas tree, so they’d fasten wooden scraps together in the shape of a tree or gather sagebrush and hang Christmas ornaments on it.  

Every home had some kind of Christmas dinner, whatever they could manage. Pioneer Christmas menus varied a great deal. Traditional Christmas food of the period included roast beef, turkey, ham, potatoes, pickles, white bread, fruitcakes, cookies, puddings, and pies. Chocolate, tea, and coffee were imported and not always available. The settlers usually set out preserved fruits and vegetables, along with fresh game if possible. The pioneer women began baking for the Holiday weeks ahead of time, leaving the plum pudding to age in the pot until Christmas dinner.

While some Christmas presents were ordered from catalogs, most were handmade such as dolls, clothes, and toys of all sorts. Months before Christmas, family members began crafting homemade gifts like corn husk dolls, sachets, carved toys, pillows, footstools, knitted winter accessories, and embroidered handkerchiefs. If the family had a good year, the children might find candy, small gifts, cookies, or fruit in their stockings.

19th Century Christmas Card with Odd Images
On Christmas Eve, Pioneer families sung carols around the Christmas tree or fireplace.

On Christmas Day, most would attend church, return home for the traditional Christmas meal, and spend the day visiting with friends and neighbors, singing, playing games, and enjoying each other’s company.

Even the most basic present day Christmas celebrations are filled with a sense of awe and gratefulness, and it was the same for the pioneer families of the 19th century.

A Joyful Christmas!
Wishing you and your family a safe and very Merry Christmas!

Angel Peak, book 12 in the Redemption Mountain Historical Western Romance series takes place close to the Christmas holidays. It is now available for purchase!



You may also buy direct from Shirleen before the formal release date at:

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Getting Christmas Right

by Rain Trueax



Humans are funny for how we tend to think what we have known is the way something always has been. Our celebration of Christmas, all that we consider normal—cards, carols, trees, Santa Claus, presents, in the United States has changed a lot in a hundred or so years. In the beginning, some Christian religions, like the Puritans were suspicious of Christmas as an invitation to decadence. The North tended to regard it somewhat the same-- up until the 1840s; while the South was more open to dances and partying. 

Christmas was only declared a national holiday in 1870 by President Grant, with maybe the hope that a joyous occasion could unite a divided and broken nation. 

As to what Christmas meant, other than the Biblical story, I believe some changes came from books with authors like Louisa May Alcott with her Little Women along with, of course, Charles Dickens with A Christmas Carol. Stories like these created new ideas about what Christmas could mean. Both were widely read. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

O Tannenbaum - The Tree by E. Ayers



The song was published by Ernst Anschutz in 1824. It's based on a folk song from the 16th century and eventually was adapted into a Christmas carol. The concept of a Christmas tree certainly brightened a home when the hours of daylight were shorter and much of the world was rather drab. It added fun to what was probably a rather boring time of the year. It's green and festive, and with its evergreen boughs showed there was promise of spring around the corner.
The original Christmas trees in Europe were hung upside down from the ceiling and decorated with red paper strips, apples, and gilded nuts. They referred to them as Sweet Trees because of all the yummy goodies that decorated them.
The idea of lighting a tree probably came from France where men would decorate the town square with a tree covered in roses to represent the Virgin Mary, dance around it, and then set it afire. (I have no idea why!)
That probably led to trees being decorated in candles. Certainly not for the timid homeowner! The trees were usually lit long enough for everyone to o-o-h and ah-h-h over, and then they were promptly extinguished. There were also plenty of buckets of water
nearby to extinguish a burning branch, and a few trees not only caught on fire, they managed to take the whole house with them. They also used to be tabletop ornaments but like everything else, the bigger the better and eventually trees were reaching the ceilings. So those beautiful trees with burning candles, although they might look fabulous, are not worth the risk. With today’s fantastic lights we can safely make the tree look as though it has real candles burning, or it can flash and do just about anything you might want.
Christmas trees are really newcomers to the USA. It’s believed German settlers introduced them in 1851. Maybe they became popular or as we say today they went viral, because there are plenty of references to individuals who had Christmas trees prior to that date in America. It didn’t take long for someone to figure out he could get paid to cut pine trees and sell them. About two years later, selling of Christmas trees was a sure way to make a little money. Back then that person went into the woods, found a few trees, cut them, and dragged them out.
By the 1880’s, German glass ornaments arrived and became very popular. The first ones were balls and then they became more elaborate. The star on the top of the tree seems to have an unclear history. But there’s enough evidence to say the first ones were made of tin.
In 1883 Sears Roebuck and Co started selling artificial trees. Very expensive! Fifty cents for the little one and a dollar for a big one, - really they weren’t cheap considering a man might be lucky to make $3.00 a week.
But by 1900, we had severely damaged the population of natural Christmas trees AKA our forests. W.V. McGalliard decided to plant 25,000 Norway spruce on his farm in New Jersey, creating what we believe is the first Christmas tree farm.
Theodore Roosevelt wanted to stop the practice of using live trees and wanted us to have “snow” trees, a deciduous branch that was coated in cotton and could be decorated. Luckily Mr. McGalliard’s sons, with some help from a hired environmentalist, put pressure on the President to allow trees to be farmed, claiming it didn’t harm the forests.
Franklin Roosevelt started a Christmas farm in 1930’s on his estate in Hyde Park, New York.
Today’s practice of farming Christmas trees has actually preserved several varieties. They are growth controlled and pruned to give us that perfectly shaped tree. Christmas tree management gives us a healthy disease-free and bug-free tree to bring into our home.
It is estimated that over 30 million Christmas trees are sold to individuals in the USA alone.

MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS
 to our readers, no matter what you celebrate. 
May we find peace during the holidays. 


And to help you get into the mood, the Authors of Main Street, have put together another annual boxed set of contemporary holiday stories on Main Street, wherever that street might be for you. My story in Christmas Wishes on Main Street is my book Christmas Paws. (Kindle for 99c for the boxed set, FREE on Kindle Unlimited, and also available in paperback.) 
 There's puppies in this story, some giggles, and a whole lot more!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

DIPSOMANIA IN AMERICA



Believe it or not, the Puritans believed in drinking. In fact, they brought more beer with them than water. Early Americans took a healthful dram for breakfast, whiskey for a lunchtime tipple, ale with supper and ended the day with a nightcap. Continuous imbibing clearly built up a tolerance. By 1830, consumption had peaked at 7 gallons per year per person.

By the late 19th Century, dipsomania, or alcoholism, was being treated as a disease. The first arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol was in 1897.

Physicians began to consider alcoholism a disease, but they had no real cure. There were facilities for the treatment of dipsomania, and if that failed, there were always insane asylums where people with disabilities of all sorts were put to get them out of the way.

In my new novel being released December 15, titled Thalia, The Widows of Wildcat Ridge Book 7, my heroine, Thalia, goes to the town doctor for advice in trying to cure the man she loves of drinking.



He tells her, "Alcohol consumption eats at your innards over a long period of time and brings about a long slow death. It grinds away a man's liver and other organs. Those who recover from it are often plagued with liver and heart problems the rest of their lives." He tells her of asylums back east where they treat dipsomania, but he doesn't recommend them. "Horrible places they are," he says.



But alcohol wasn't the only addiction rampant in the nineteenth century. During this time, much of the food consumed by working-class families was adulterated by foreign substances, contaminated by chemicals, or befouled by animal and human excrement. By the 1840s home-baked bread had died out among the rural poor; in the small tenements of the urban masses, unequipped as these were with ovens, it never existed. 


The list of poisonous additives reads like the stock list of some mad and malevolent chemist: strychnine, cocculus inculus (both hallucinogens) and copperas in rum and beer; sulphate of copper in pickles, bottled fruit, wine, and preserves; lead chromate in mustard and snuff; sulphate of iron in tea and beer; ferric ferrocynanide, lime sulphate, and turmeric in chinese tea; copper carbonate, lead sulphate, bisulphate of mercury, and Venetian lead in sugar confectionery and chocolate; lead in wine and cider; all were extensively used and accumulative in effect, resulting, over a long period, in chronic gastritis, and often fatal food poisoning.



And adults weren't the only ones imbibing these poisons. Most medicines, even for children, contained alcohol or opiates or both. Laudanum is a tincture of opium containing approximately 10% powdered opium by weight (the equivalent of 1% morphine). Medical officers were convinced that one of the major causes of infant mortality was the widespread practice of giving children narcotics, primarily opium, to quiet them. Laudanum was cheap enough, about the price of a pint of beer. Opium killed far more infants through starvation than overdose. Dr. Greenhow, investigating for the English Privy Council, noted how children 'kept in a state of continued narcotism will be thereby disinclined for food, and be but imperfectly nourished.'

At mid-century at least ten proprietary brands of medicines containing opiates existed, with Godfrey's Cordial, Steedman's Powder, and the grandly named Atkinson's Royal Infants Preservative among the most popular. Opium in pills and penny sticks was widely sold and opium-taking was described a way of life in places.



Morphine was treated like a new-fangled wonder drug. Injected with a hypodermic syringe, the medication relieved pain, asthma, headaches, alcoholics’ delirium tremens, gastrointestinal diseases and menstrual cramps. By the late 1800s, women made up more than 60 percent of opium addicts.

By 1895, morphine and opium powders, like OxyContin and other prescription opioids today, had led to an addiction epidemic that affected roughly 1 in 200 Americans. The Civil War helped. The Union Army alone issued nearly 10 million opium pills to its soldiers, plus 2.8 million ounces of opium powders and tinctures. An unknown number of soldiers returned home addicted, or with war wounds that opium relieved. Opiates made up 15 percent of all prescriptions dispensed in Boston in 1888, according to a survey of the city’s drug stores.



Only around 1895, at the peak of the epidemic, did doctors begin to slow and reverse the overuse of opiates. Advances in medicine and public health played a role: acceptance of the germ theory of disease, vaccines, x-rays, and the debut of new pain relievers, such as aspirin in 1899. Better sanitation meant fewer patients contracting dysentery or other gastrointestinal diseases, then turning to opiates for their constipating and pain-relieving effects.

Charlene Raddon is an Amazon best selling and award winning author of western historical romance and designs book covers at Silver Sage Book Covers. 
You can preorder THALIA on Amazon at http://a.co/d/46m706S

Thursday, December 6, 2018

MOTHER OF CALIFORNIA'S HUMAN RIGHTS by Arletta Dawdy



Mary Ellen Pleasant was called many things in her lifetime: Slave, Abolitionist, Cook, Madame, Entrepreneur, Real Estate Mogul, White woman and “Mammy.” She described herself in the 1890 census as “a capitalist by profession.” By her autobiography of 1902, she claimed her mother was a Louisiana Negress and her father a native Hawaiian. In some accounts, she said her mother was a Voodoo princess and her white father was John Pleasants, the son of the VA governor. The date of her birth ranges from August 19, 1812-17 with most writers settling on 1814. She died on January 4, 1904, poor and befriended by the Sherwood family in whose Napa plot she was buried.


Image result for mary ellen pleasant


Sometime between age 6 and 13, Mary Ellen was sent to Nantucket, RI as an indentured servant to “Grandma” Hussey. She worked off her time, growing very close to Mrs. Hussey, a Quaker shop owner, learning of and participating in the Underground Railroad and the cause of Abolition. An avid reader, she educated herself in many disciplines and became adept at figures.
Mary Ellen met and married wealthy John James Smith, a plantation owner who had freed his slaves and passed as white. They worked together on the Underground Railroad in different states and Canada until his death four years later. He left her money and instructions to continue their work.

Around 1848, Mary Ellen formed a partnership with John James (JJ) Pleasants and may have married but no record exists. They had a child: Lizzie J. Smith who was left with friends or family at some point. Lizzie came west, married and died in her twenties. Her relationship with MEP is unknown.

The Pleasants continued with Smith’s work in the NE, attracting too much attention from slavers. They fled to New Orleans where JJ was a relative of Voodoo Queen Marie LaVeau’s husband. The two women drew close in the four years MEP was there. By 1852, JJ preceded his wife to San Francisco; she soon traveled by boat, passing as white. JJ Pleasant was a well-paid ship’s cook and Mary Ellen was a live-in domestic at first. They shared joint residency from time to time and continued their abolitionist work.

As Mary Ellen Smith, she soon had a catering business that thrived by serving rich white men. She absorbed investment information and the tricks of wheeling and dealing in the riches of the gold mining era. All it took was listening and evaluating the discussions of her customers! She helped place blacks in employment in her own ventures (laundries, boardinghouses, catering) as well as the Palace Hotel and other white controlled businesses. 

She began her affiliation with Thomas Bell, a Scottish clerk in the Bank of California. Together they eventually had a $30 million fortune. She lived with the Bell family at the House of Mystery in SF for many years. 
Image result for john brown  
JOHN BROWN                               
  Years later, Mary Ellen left San Francisco, 1857-1859, to aid John Brown with work and money. One story has it that when he was arrested after the Harper's Ferry, VA fiasco  he had a letter in his   pocket, signed  only with her initials. She asked that a sign  be  placed on her grave. In 1965, the San Francisco Negro  Historical and Cultural Society placed the marker:                           "She was a friend of John Brown."

The crux of Mary Ellen’s life is her fight for human rights, beginning in Nantucket and spreading all the way to San Francisco. From “slave stealing” for the Underground Railroad to court cases, she led the way.

MEP first entered the legal system soon after arriving in San Francisco when she supported the case of George Mitchell, brought to CA by his owner in 1849; the owner wanted to return East, taking Mr. Mitchell also. The judge determined that the act to remove had ended and the case continued with evasive delays until 1855 when the CA Fugitive Slave Act expired and the case resolved. In 1852, MEP was a founding member of the Franchise League which sought to allow blacks to testify in court. A busy first year in the City!

The years before, during and after the Civil War were very busy for the Pleasants as their influence and riches increased. The 1860’s saw her in court   fighting for people of color to be free to travel by public transportation.  She won in several instances. Other cases hinged on women's rights..
Related imageTwo linked, notorious cases in the 1880’s had to do with Senator William Sharon (rep for NV but living in CA) and Sarah Althea Hill, a young Irish woman; the press, the populace and politicos across the country were captivated by tales of Voodoo spells, prostitution, STDs, a secret marriage, unrequited love and the influence and support of Sarah by MEP.  Sharon was a multi-millionaire: owner of the Comstock Lode, The Territorial Enterprise, the Palace Hotel and partner with the owners of the Bank of California. In the end, male sexual misconduct was judged to be expected and condoned. Both women suffered financially and their reputations were shredded.



Image result for Beltane Ranch

BELTANE RANCH
Mary Ellen invested in many properties over the years; she was alleged to own eight or more houses in San Francisco and a ranch near San Mateo. In 1890, she bought an established a ranch in the Valley of the Moon (Sonoma County,) designed the ranch house with its New Orleans influence, She spent many weekends there in her last years. She named it “Beltane Ranch" for Thomas Bell  his Celtic heritage...Beltane is a fertility festival held in early May.

It is impossible to do a complete review of this woman’s amazing life and accomplishments here. Books, fiction and non-fiction, movies and news articles have attempted to portray Mary Ellen’s life. Many are in error or complicated due to lack of reliable information and the very complexity of her life.

References:
1.     Beltaneranch.com, website for the historic ranch
2.     Fowler, Karen Joy, Sister Noon, a novel, George Putnam’s Sons, 2002
3.     Hudson, Lynn M., The Making of “Mammy Pleasant,” University of Illinois Press, 2003
4.     Wikipedia, Mary Ellen Pleasant

Arletta Dawdy writes of the Old West with special attention to the unique lives and contributions of strong women, fictional and real. Please look for her Huachuca Trilogy: HUACHUCA WOMAN, BY GRACE and ROSE OF SHARON.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

PUCKER UP AND KISS YOUR SWEETHEART UNDER THE MISTLETOE! By Cheri Kay Clifton



While decorating our home for the Christmas holidays, I thought about all the various family traditions we celebrate during the season. First and foremost is our display of the Nativity Scene above the mantel and our decorated Christmas tree in the living room. Also we enjoy the popular customs like stockings and wreathes hung, candles all aglow, fruitcakes and cookies baked and shared, and oh yes, we never forget our well-worn elves on the shelves every year!

But there's another traditional decoration some folks display in their homes, including ours ... Mistletoe. What kind of plant is it and where does it come from, some may wonder. And where did the holiday tradition of kissing under the mistletoe originate?

Other than seeing mistletoe for sale in the stores at Christmas time, I’d never known much about it until after I was married and my husband pointed out the plants growing in the tops of oak trees along the roadsides. He reminisced about how in his youth, he’d climb trees to cut down the mistletoe and make wreathes which he sold door to door for extra money during the holidays. Because of that bit of nostalgia, we’ve always had a wreath on our door and/or a sprig of mistletoe hanging over a doorway at Christmas time.



Mistletoe is commonly found growing as a parasitic plant. There are two types of mistletoe. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration (Phoradendron flavescens) is native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees from New Jersey to Florida. The other type of mistletoe, (Viscum Album) is of European origin.

The use of Mistletoe goes back to the times of ancient Druids. They didn’t kiss under it, but they believed the plant, especially a rare species that grew on oak trees, to have sacred powers including the ability to heal illnesses, protect against nightmares, and even predict the future. The Druids would hang the plant in their houses hoping it would bring them good luck and ward off evil spirits.


Mistletoe was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology and that’s where it’s believed the custom of kissing under Mistletoe comes from. Mistletoe continued to be associated with fertility and vitality through the Middle Ages, and by the 18th century it had also become incorporated into Christmas celebrations around the world.

Victorian England is credited with perpetuating the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. The custom dictated that a man was allowed to kiss any woman standing underneath mistletoe and that bad luck would befall any woman who refused the kiss. One variation on the tradition was with each kiss a berry was to be plucked from the mistletoe and the kissing must stop after all the berries had been removed. Thus, the traditions which began with the European mistletoe were transferred to the similar American plant with the process of immigration and settlement.



So, how many of you decorate your homes with a sprig of mistletoe (real or artificial) and follow the romantic tradition of couples kissing when caught standing under it? Oh, by the way, I should mention that the plant is poisonous, so please, don’t eat it. Just Kiss!




To learn more about me and my books, please visit my website: www.cherikayclifton.com 






Sunday, December 2, 2018

RIches From the Empire Mine

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
The Empire Mine, located in Grass Valley, California, is one of the oldest, largest, deepest, longest, and richest gold mines in California. Between 1850 and its closure in 1956, the Empire Mine produced 5.8 million ounces of gold, extracted from 367 miles of underground passages.
My grandparents lived in Nevada City, another town situated in the Mother Lode. I loved exploring and visiting the gold mines and finding remnants lying on the ground not far from their house. Grandma and I found checks dated in 1901 from a gold mining company, crucibles (a ceramic container in which gold was melted at very high temperatures), and several other gold containers. I remember the first time I visited the Empire Mine. We actually stepped about four feet into the mine to the place where the miners loaded and unloaded into the cart that carried them deep down inside the mine.
We learned they kept canaries in cages. If one died, they knew methane gas (a colorless, odorless flammable gas that is the most common dangerous gas found in underground gold mines) was in that section. They would vacate that section of the mine. We also found out they'd take mules down into the mines to carry what the miners dug out of the walls.
In Oct. 1850, George McKnight discovered gold in a quartz outcrop (ledge) called the Ophir Vein. It was bought and purchased several times until the Empire Mining Co. was incorporated in 1854. Miners from the tin and copper mines of Cornwall, England, arrived to share their experience and expertise in hard rock mining. Particularly important was the Cornish contribution of the Cornish engine, operated on steam, which emptied the depths of the mine of its constant water seepage at a rate of 18,000 gallons per day. This increased the productivity and expansion underground. Starting in 1895, Lester Allan Pelton's water wheel provided electric power for the mine and stamp mill. The Cornish provided the bulk of the labor force from the late 1870s until the mine’s closure eighty years later.
A stamp mill machine crushes material by pounding rather than grinding, either for further processing or extraction of metallic ores. See below.
William Bowers Bourn acquired control of the company in 1869. Bourn died in 1874, and his estate ran the mine, abandoning the Ophir vein for the Rich Hill in 1878. Bourn's son, William Bowers Bourn II, formed the Original Empire Co. in 1878, took over the assets of the Empire Mining Co., and continued work on the Ophir vein after it was bottomed out at 1200 feet and allowed to fill with water. With his financial backing, and after 1887, the mining knowledge and management of his younger cousin George W. Starr, the Empire Mine became famous for its mining technology. Bourn purchased the North Star Mine in 1884, turning it into a major producer, and then sold it to James D. Hague in 1887, along with controlling interest in the Empire a year later.
Bourn reacquired control of the Empire Mine in 1896, forming the Empire Mines and Investment Co. In 1897, he commissioned Willis Polk to build the Cottage on land near the mine, using waste rock from the mine. The Cottage included a greenhouse, gardens, fountains and a reflecting pool.