Saturday, October 30, 2021

History of Envelopes by Zina Abbott

The first known envelope was nothing like the paper envelope we know of today. It can be dated back to around 3500 to 3200 BC in the ancient Middle East. Hollow, clay spheres were molded around financial tokens and used in private transactions. The two people who discovered these first envelopes were Jacques de Morgan (1901) and Roland de Mecquenem (1907).

Paper envelopes were developed in China, where paper was invented by 2nd century BC. They were used to store gifts of money. 

Letter Sheet

Prior to 1845, hand-made envelopes were all that were available for use, both commercial and domestic. Since most people could not read or write, very few had a use for letter paper or envelopes. Envelopes were generally handmade and mainly used by the well-to-do who could afford to send private letters and invitations to social gatherings.

In the early 1800s, the cost of a letter depended on how many sheets of paper were included. An envelope was charged as an extra piece of paper. Most ordinary people folded and sealed the letter so the address could be written on the blank back. Some used intricate folding; other used wax to seal the flap or the edges. Hot wax, made from bees’ wax and resin, would be dripped on to the edges to be sealed and stamped with the motif of the sender. 

Rowland Hill

In 1837, social reformer Sir Rowland Hill published the document, “Post Office Reform”, which revealed how a stamp with a gum backing and a pre-paid penny wrapper were to be created. Local businesses created them through the lengthy process of cutting and hand-folding an envelope template. However, demand was growing quickly due to the universal postage system and companies manufacturing hand folded envelopes simply couldn’t keep up.

Classic envelope design made from Diamond-shaped sheet

In 1845, Edwin Hill and Warren De La Rue were granted a British patent for the first envelope-making machine. Their first envelopes shaped like flat diamonds or rhombus-shaped sheets called blanks that were pre-cut before being fed into a machine which creased them to create a rectangular enclosure. The edges of the overlapping flaps treated with a paste or other adhesive. It was up to the sender to secure the open flap. Generally, the flap could be held together with a wax seal on the point.

Laer & Sohn Envelope circa 1845

U.S. postal reform in the 1840s changed how both businesses and individuals used the mails. Postage was no longer calculated by the number of sheets a letter contained. Instead, the cost was based upon weight and distance. By 1851, a one-ounce letter could be sent across the nation for as low as three cents. Lower rates encouraged more Americans to use mail on a regular basis.

1879 U.S. Stamped Envelope

Envelope-making machine

Hawes, who was a Massachusetts physician, invented an envelope-making machine and was granted a patent in the United States in 1853. He left his practice to work for paper machinery manufacturer Goddard, Rice & Company.   Building on earlier designs, he added a self-feeder that automatically picked up the blanks. This reduced the manpower required by earlier machines, increased the speed of production, and provided the basis for the principles that would be used in later years to develop self-gumming plunger machines. Hawes’s machines turned out an impressive 10,000 to 12,500 envelopes per day.

1883 Pimpton Fawn Envelope

Throughout the mid to late 19th century, many inventors and manufacturers developed envelope machines that improved upon the processes of folding, gumming, and drying. In 1862 or early 1863, inventor George H. Reay who worked for Berlin and Jones, a leading envelope manufacturing company in New York, developed a reliable folding machine that became an industry standard of the time. Then, in the late 1860s, Thomas Waymouth, another inventor with Berlin and Jones, developed a self-gumming and folding machine that proved to be a huge advance in the industry.

  1893 Postmark

While Waymouth’s machine further progressed envelope manufacturing, it also made it harder for other inventors to take the self-gumming concept further. It was difficult to invent a new machine that did not infringe on Waymouth’s patent. In 1871, two inventor brothers, Henry D. and Daniel W. Swift who created numerous envelope-manufacturing machines while working for G. Henry Whitcomb & Co. in Worcester, MA, developed a gummed envelope machine. Their process had the ability of gumming envelopes without worker assistance. This major breakthrough in the process would lead to future generations mass-producing envelopes more efficiently.

The years following the American Civil War saw an increase of correspondence between those who remained in the East, and those who traveled to the West. This was particularly true for those men―primarily in the West―and women―primarily in the East―who used correspondence as a means of seeking suitable marriage partners.

My upcoming Christmas romance is set in 1878, several years after gummed envelope machines were available and creating covers for sending letters. Figgy Pudding by Francine is currently on pre-order and will be available for release on 11/22/21. To read the book description and find the link, please CLICK HERE.






Wikimedia Commons


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Spooked Horses and How to Help Them


Anyone who has ever ridden a horse probably has first-hand experience with that horse becoming spooked. Even horses that are deemed “gentle” can become spooked by something unexpected. In my new historical Western romance, Hope in Her Heart, which released today, I created a scene in which my heroine, Emma, is riding her family’s horse, Tulip. Tulip is an older mare who gives the impression of needing to be put out to pasture, certainly not the kind of equine that would be considered for the job of chasing down wanted criminals. But lo and behold, Tulip surprises everyone and does really well until she’s spooked by . . . butterflies.

Yes, you read that right. As I was researching what kinds of things have a tendency to spook horses, looking for one that might fit the scenario in my work in progress, I found butterflies listed on more than three websites, so it must be a more common occurrence than I originally supposed.

Other objects that horses tend to shy away from include: plastic bags, umbrellas, footballs, plastic cones, water hoses, and just about anything that is new or unfamiliar in their environment. Why are they so skittish, anyway?

Horses have eyes that are quite different than humans. They are positioned on the sides of their heads, and they can see approximately 350 degrees around them (wow!). Wouldn’t you like to have eyes in the back of your head like the popular myth for mothers states? It might be nice, except that horses’ eyes are not able to focus as well as human eyes, so even though they have a broader range of motion, they can’t see objects as well.

Horses are also prey animals. I have to admit that I don’t usually think of a horse as being one, but several websites I searched through stated that horses are often preyed upon by larger animals like bears, wildcats, alligators, and some species of snakes. They are always alert, and they don’t sleep lying down. So, knowing these two important facts about a horse’s eyes and it being a prey animal, it becomes clearer why a horse might perceive a garden hose as a venomous snake or a plastic bag blowing in the breeze as a large animal coming to get them.

What can a person who is preparing to ride a horse do to minimize sudden movements born of fear? First, they can choose a trail that the horse is already comfortable on. Second, they can slowly acclimate the horse to a new object by allowing it to stare at it from a distance and circling it, moving a little closer into the circle each time. Third, they need to know their horse. Like humans, horses are different from each other and react differently to the same stimulus. Be observant and figure out a strategy that works best for your horse. And fourth, they need to stay calm and in control. By taking the horse through the scary episode step by step, the horse will remember and react better the next time. One other tip: teach your horse to step sideways. These tips and other helpful information can be found at: and

 Read about Emma and Patrick's adventure in my latest Brides of Hope Hollow sweet historical romance, Hope in Her Heart, available on Amazon. You can click on the graphic below to learn more.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021


 Ever heard of the Great Roundup? Buffalo round up, that is...

The year was1884. A man named Michel Pablo, whose mother was a Blackfoot, envisioned a way to save an endangered species and eventually make some money. He decided to "ranch" bison.

Image from World Wildlife Fund

Buffalo? Where did these wild animals come from, disappeared from the Great Plains like ther were? Why was he able to purchase them? It had to do with a second marriage, a little bigamy actually. A Flathead named Sam Walking Coyote had a wife from his own tribe. Away from home, he took a wife from the Blackfoot. When he had to go home, he captured some wild bison to use as a way to pacify the tribal council. He knew they would not approve of his taking another wife, not with the Jesuit influences over the council. It didn't work. They beat Walking Coyote and exiled him.

Fast forward some years. Those four animals had multiplied to 13. Pablo bought 13 animals from Walking Coyote.He turned them loose on the reservation and protected them. The land was considered free grazing area by the government, after all.

Michel Pablo, already in his seventies at the time of the "Great Roundup".

Later, he  bought another 25-30 animals from a different source. Pablo decided that the bison would populate on the grassy land of the reservation as long as they were protected, and by 1899 he had almost 300 buffalo. That became a problem when, in 1904, the US government decided to open the reservation land for settlement. Officials took away Pablo's right to free grazing.

Interesting, but why am I writing about this? It's the roundup that happened in 1907. Michel Pablo's herd totalled 800 and he had to sell. The story goes the US government. refused to buy them. Instead, Pablo accepted Canada's $130,000. That meant he had to get hundreds of head over a long and dusty trail to Ravalli, Montana. There, the buffalo would be loaded onto a train and shipped to Manitoba.

Watercolor on paper done by Charles Russell, 1909,
titled Pablo's Buffalo Hunt

His first try didn't go well. Buffalo could climb cliffs and escape from makeshift corrals. In the end, only 30 animals made it Ravalli. After that, Pablo made two decisions, First, he would only round up the calves and cows rather than the bulls. Also, he would hire the best of the best cowboys. That meant paying out the best money in the area.

Bison Trail 1908 by Charles Russell
The Great Roundup was born. Pablo paid $5 each day to each cowboy. Ranches in the area operated on a skeleton staff as hands lined up to work with the buffalo. The activity attracted the attention of a cowboy who was also a photographer and artist--Charles Russell. It's because of Russell's personal writings that we have a lot of details about the drive from the reservation to Ravalli. 

Even with all of the help he could want, Pablo spent five years capturing enough buffalo to fill his contract with Canada.

And where did the bison end up? This was the start of the herd at Elk Island National Park in Canada. the heritage of their buffalo was once free ranging across the Great Plains. If only the US Congress had been willing to take Pablo's offer of $15 per animal, that herd would not have needed to leave their native country to survive. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Colorado Cowboy?

Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Comanche Grassland - La Junta, CO.
Photo property of the author

The Colorado Cowboy could easily have been the Colorado Sheepherder. Research shows that sheep were the first 'commercial' animal in Colorado.

In the book "Historic Ranching Complexes on the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site" the authors state that ranching, specifically sheep ranching was brought to the southwest with the settlers from Mexico in the 1500s. It was sheep that formed the basis of ranching as the early settlers knew it. Other livestock were for personal use. It was the Churro Sheep that became the breed of choice due to its hardiness, meat, and wool. 

These ranchers would move the sheep across the open range seasonally, usually penning the livestock at night for protection. In winter they would settle them near the rivers and/or close to the settlements. Where the high country range was used on a more permanent basis, rock walls and shelters were built to create wind rain blocks.

Even as late as 1879, sheep and its wool, which is a twice a year crop, were still popular. In Colorado Springs, one of the principal money earners was wool growing. The city directory shows a list of twenty-five stock growers vs thirty-five wool growers. What is most interesting about this list is the number of people who were doing both.

So where does the Cowboy fit into this picture? Columbus and other early explorers may have introduced cattle to the new world, but Colorado really didn’t see them until people started their journey on the Santa Fe Trail, which passed through the southeast section of Colorado. The Bent brothers, of Bent’s Fort fame, would trade one oxen for two worn-out ones. Thus they built a herd of ‘beeves’. In the 1840s the Army ordered 500 ‘beeves’ from the Bents to supply Kearney and his Army of the West on their trip from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Interior of Bent's Fort 
Photo property of the author

In the central Colorado plains, there is a mention of one man who had cattle as early as the 1830s, but not much more is known about him and his herd.

It was during the cattle drives from Texas through Colorado that the cowboy took his place in this state’s history.  The 1866 Goodnight/Loving Trail went through Pueblo, along the Front Range to Denver, Colorado. This trail was one of the earliest to enter the state. In 1867 Goodnight established a ranch near Pueblo, Colorado. The barn his ‘cowboys’ built in 1869-70 in the Pueblo region, still stands today. 

A second trail, called the Potter/Blocker (Bacon) trail came through the eastern part of Colorado on their trip to Montana sometime around 1883. Not as well known and harsher than most, it traversed a drier and more unforgiving area for such drives. 

Eastern Plains of Colorado
Photo property of the author 

Today, Colorado still has cowboys and cattle grazing on the land. This legacy is traced back to the early settlers who braved this new country and left their mark. I will leave you with this quote from the book Century in the Saddle: The 100 Year Story of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, 1867-1967:

The cattlemen who built the Colorado range industry in the later 1860’s and 1870’s were not all heroes, nor were they all villains. However, there were both heroes and villains among them. Essentially they were pioneers, with the foresight to see a future in the cattle business...”

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Post (c) by Doris McCraw All Rights Reserved

Saturday, October 16, 2021

An Adventure for A Dime by Jo-Ann Roberts

Initially published around the time of the Civil War, the first dime novels were immensely popular. These sensational stories were full of romance and adventure and became wildly popular in both the United States and in England, where they were dubbed "penny dreadfuls". 

Dime novels typically told the dramatic adventure stories of a single hero or heroine who often found himself or herself in the midst of a moral dilemma. They were ethically sound, endorsing good character, and strong moral values, with the hero/heroine choosing virtue over vice.

The storylines were simple and told in in language that brought to mind concrete pictures and people for the readers. The books were simple in appearance, bound in inexpensive paper with brightly illustrated covers, easy to carry, and easy to pass around. Though the subject matter of the novels included detectives, the military, chaste romance, and even early science fiction, it was the Western dime novel that dominated the market.

In the beginning, these stories were about the American Indians, but when the Indians were forced onto reservations, the public's fascination with them began to fade. Consequently, the novels focused on cowboys in the Wild West, outlaws and bandits, and train robbers. 

In Victorian England, "penny dreadfuls" were written in the macabre Gothic tradition to frighten and thrill readers.


Dime novel stories would often feature a recurring hero such as Buffalo Bill, Deadwood Dick, Buckskin Sam, or Roving Joe. The printing house could then establish a series and garner a following for these heroes. These heroes were, of course, packaged in a fast-paced adventure story often described as
"blood and thunder". 

First issued by the New York printing firm of Irwin and Erasmus Beadle and Robert Adams, the dime novels were an immediate success.  Between 1860 and 1865 alone, Beadle and Adams published more than five million dime novels. During this time, the Civil War made soldiers a prime audience for the publishers who produced books that catered to the men needing a light diversion during the boredom that often came with camp life.
Writing these stories was a lucrative business for many late 19th century authors. A well-established author could earn up to $1,000 per story; a lesser established author could expect close to $50 per story. One such author, Prentiss Ingraham achieved success and fame as an author of the "Buffalo Bill" series. By his own account he penned 600 novels by 1900.

Another major publishing house, Street and Smith, viewed fiction as a commodity, and editors had strict authority over the authors' works. Each author was allowed limited room for creativity and was required to follow a specific formula in the plot lines and writing style. No wonder authors like Horatio Alger, Upton Sinclair, and Jack London wrote for Street and Smith under pen names!


However, not all authors wrote under pen names to save their reputations. Many authors were writers who were often journalists, teachers, or clerks simply looking to make a bit more money to supplement their current occupations. With the invention of the typewriter, authors were able to churn out stories at an unbelievable rate. One author, Frederic Marmaduke Van Rensselaer Dey, the creator of street-savvy detective Nick Carter, was rumored to put out 25,000 words every week for almost twenty years!
Although not as numerous as their male counterparts, female authors also found success in the dime novel market. The most notable among these was Ann S. Stephens. In 1860, she authored the very first Beadle's Dime Novel, "Malaeska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter".

Bertha Clay, Geraldine Fleming, and Laura Libbey were among the most prominent female authors who penned stories about the pioneers, sensational murder mysteries, and society romances aimed at a young, working, middle-class audience. All for Love of a Fair Face, The Story of a Wedding Ring, A Charity Girl, The Unseen Bridegroom, and Only a Mechanic's Daughter were among the most popular romance novels enjoyed by girls and women, and surprisingly by many men.

The dime novel craze heavily influenced pulp fiction magazines introduced in the 1890s. Rising postal rates may have caused a decline in the publication of the dime novels, but the content material and sentiment behind the works continue to influence publications even today. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Omaha Laflesch: “You’re a Half-Breed” by Cora Leland


 Dr. Susan Laflesche

  Tonight, while I waited to check into a motel outside of Lincoln, the man waiting in front of me was listening to a beautiful Native American ceremony on his radio. Suddenly he ducked to the front of the motel, made a phone call, then returned to the line.

He resumed his place (without asking).  I said, “that was beautiful chanting.  What was it?”

He said, “That’s what we call the half-breed song.  Like you.”

 I was so amused that I didn’t flinch. 

He continued.  “The Omaha Nation’s dedicating a statue of my great-grandmother, Susan Laflesch, tomorrow morning at the capitol rotunda.  She was a half-breed like you.”

Did you ever feel that a person was egging you on? 

But I was terribly interested in what would come next.  Also, I was glad that Dr. Laflesch was being honored at the Nebraska State Capitol and I’d gladly overlook her great- grandson’s peculiar outlook.

The term ‘half-breed’ originated among American Indians when land was being divided by the federal government for various tribal uses.  Tribes in one region demanded a reservation set apart for the ‘half-breeds’ but the reservations themselves were to be open only to ‘pure-bloods’ or ‘bloods.’

I got checked in and went to my room, leaving the famous Dr. Susan Laflesch’s great- grandson making preparations in his.  Through the open door, I noticed a woman dividing up food as I walked by. 

I started thinking catty thoughts, wondering if he considered all Native American women like the braves of old supposedly did: women were property, fit for skinning hides and gathering berries, but nothing much beyond that.  The braves of old, though, supplied the tribe, including single females, with fresh meat.

The warriors also protected the women of their band.  All women would be safe from raids and attacks, when women could be stolen and enslaved.  (Stealing and enslaving, then selling, women from other tribes was common, especially among the Plains Indians.  European American -- non-tribal American -- slave dealers held auctions at local and larger markets, selling captive women as slaves.

Among the tribes, women were ranked, like every other member, with the young married women ranking ‘most,’ and the older, widowed or unwed women ranking ‘least.’   The women whom they’d captured, even those taken as captive wives, had no rank. I admitted to myself that the warriors of old might have felt insulted when any woman spoke to them as their equal.

Of course, the entire American Indian social structure was disrupted, first by the reservation system, then the attempts at ‘allotment’ (written into law by the Dawes Act).  Small parcels of land were given to individual Indians for their personal use only. 

Farming was encouraged, though tribal land was not uniformly suitable for growing crops and tools, like plows, and seed, were hard to come by, even by homesteaders and other settlers.  For example, the ancient inhabitants of the great southwestern deserts, like the Pueblo and Hopi Indians, lived where farming was impossible for anyone. 

In other regions, Indians were able to grow potatoes with success.  (Potatoes were considered by settlers and Indians alike as filled with nutrients, and were valued for keeping away scurvy.)  Other individual Indians worked hard and had good luck against the clouds of insects, the droughts, and the harsh weather that sent many homesteaders away. 

Some Indians were discouraged by life on reservations, then economically stopped by the decision that individuals must be farmers.  They’d grown up to expect nothing different from generations of their kinsmen.  From boyhood they’d learned skills for hunting large mammals like buffalo, which was – when you consider it – dangerous and life-threatening.  They learned how to ride their ponies and swing in front of charging buffaloes, or movements for confusing large animals while filling them with arrows or spears while riding. 

As children, they’d learned how to make bows, string them from the same materials as their ancestors, to carve arrows from rocks; certain types of arrows would kill small game; they made others suitable for hunting buffalo or other large game. 

The young warriors used certain wood for making the bows, and they learned to substitute other wood when their choice became too scarce.  (I do not offer these facts as excuses, but as tidbits of Western history.   I am unfit to judge anyone.)

The Dawes Act sought to enhance the federal government’s new project.  Allotments of small tracts of land to individual Indians were to replace the reservations, which they’d given to tribes. This was to reduce/remove tribal life and to create individual farmers.  It was written up as a charitable, humanitarian effort.  Hundreds of hard-working organizations endorsed this effort to help the native population.

The land that wasn’t used as allotments to Indians was sold to people settling the land; the federal government received the profits.  The effort toward creating individual allotments of land for Indians was discarded as a failure in the 20th century.

Then I remembered how truly great Dr. Susan Laflesch was.  As I’ve mentioned before in Sweethearts of the West, Susan Laflesch was the first Native American medical doctor.  She went to the University of Pennsylvania medical college during the post-civil war era. 

Doctors in America could – and did -- practice openly with no medical training.  Doctors abounded, opening clinics with no medical training whatsoever and no licensing. The University of Pennsylvania had one of the few accredited medical colleges.

Dr. Laflesch worked not only as a licensed medical doctor for the Omaha tribe.  She worked constantly for simple people.  For example, normal Indians who needed complicated paperwork filled out and sent through the government maze.  Like others in her family, she felt that she should take advantage of her many blessings – like being educated -- for helping others. Her medical practice consisted of high payment to no payment. 


It’s three o’clock in the morning. I’m glad that my experience this evening led to my sharing these ideas with you.  I’ll snap some photos of Dr. Laflesch’s statue and post them next month.  She was a strong-willed, admirable and very pretty woman.

I suspect that she’d been called a half-breed, too.  Only twice in my life have I been called a ‘half-breed.’  The first time, I was teaching at a university in Thailand.  One of the Thai teachers said innocently, ‘Oh! You must be a half-breed!”  I don’t remember what I said, but certainly nothing to hurt her. She spoke very little English, and I was sure she hadn’t meant this as a slur.

My encounter this evening?  The Oto tribe has never been one of the flashier, publicized tribes. The Oto is much smaller than the Omaha tribe, and has been since diseases and famines swept across the nation. The Otoes resisted attempts to unite with other tribes, but finally joined with the Missouria.  It had also been a larger, more powerful tribe, but numbers had simply decreased over the years.

My grandmother married an Irish merchant in Oklahoma.  Her son, my father, was a handsome wild Oto.  Like the strong hero in my last book – Thunder Hawk in Rescuing the Indian’s Bride -- it’s difficult to imagine a person ever calling him anything insulting.  

American Indian women, though, were slandered to their faces by being sneered at as ‘squaws.’  Like most racist slurs, the word stood for many other things.  Why should I feel slandered at being called ‘half-breed’ when I share the title with the great Dr. Susan Laflesch!

 First women Native American medial college graduates

I hope you’ve forgiven me for my very late Sweethearts of the West blog post.  I’d counted on internet in airports to send you my latest article; but as I learned, since the pandemic, airports simply don’t have that service. I spent hours waiting in airports, but without internet (or food or water).

 I’m finally in my new apartment, but there's no phone or internet, so sending you this from the city library!  I enjoyed looking at Dr. LaFlesch Picotte's statue.  It's very popular, with many people stopping and looking carefully.  Gardeners have planted sturdy Plains flowers and greenery as part of the arrangement.

Here's an article you might enjoy:

I’ll be on time in the future! Thank you again for your loyalty to me and to our great blog, Sweethearts of the West.