On one of my jaunts to explore local Texas history I stopped at the Heritage Village Museum in Woodville, Texas. From the outside I could see some old historic buildings. However, the inside of the museum and the exhibits which walked me through life in east Texas during the nineteenth and early twentieth century surprised me. From the 1920’s homemade still to the 1830’s copper bathtub in the back of the barbershop, the exhibits took the visitor through a walk back in time. Curators deftly created a rather complete town that distilled overlap of the time and technologies throughout the century and half history of the region.
Various building such as the candle makers lodge, the spinning and weaving building, and the large pole barn are used for demonstrations, special events, and weekend activities celebrated in Woodville. But the other buildings were provided the visitor with a close-up acquaintance with the realities of early town life. Just a smattering of the thirty-eight buildings include a turn-of-the century newspaper office with the complete press set-up, nineteenth century doctor and dentist offices, a seamstress shop which operated from 1875 to 1885, the obligatory one room school house, an 1866 family cabin, a railroad depot from 1890, a real post office taken from Pluck, Texas, and a chair factory which produced furniture until 1964.
Two of the most interesting parts of the exhibit were the buggy barn and the tool shed. Standing next to each of the twenty-two vehicles housed in the barn made me very glad I didn’t have to shinny up into the seats to ride into town on the dirt and rutted roads. The tool shed housed a great deal of hand tools used for woodworking and construction of buildings and furniture. The adjacent industrial area housed a fascinating human-powered leather sewing used to make or repair harnesses, bridles, and work on the upholstery for carriages and wagons.
I recommend to anyone interested in the nineteenth century history and artifacts take a trip to the Heritage Village Museum in Woodville, Texas and spend a day. www.heritage-village.org (409) 283-2272
The Courtship, Charles Green – 1878
You know me. I’m a History Apologist. Any time someone says “And that’s the way things were”, I have to ask “Was it really?” That’s especially true when it comes to the assumptions that are made about what people’s attitudes were, how they deported themselves, and what society’s rules were in the historical time periods in which we write.
So a couple of months ago when I was having a discussion with a fellow historical romance writer about why we write in the time periods that we do, hers being Regency and mine being Late Victorian, I was somewhat taken aback when her answer was “I prefer to write in the Regency because social rules were so restrictive and rigid in the Victorian era and men and women hardly had anything to do with each other”.
I bumped up against this assumption again recently when someone made the observation about my novel Fool for Love—set in 1896, mind you—that the heroine NEVER would have slept with the hero without being married to him (in spite of the fact that this particular heroine was already pregnant from a horrible previous relationship, was ridiculously grateful to the hero for saving her life, and was pretending she was married to him). But I suspect that person’s biggest problem was that the heroine really liked sex. How historically inaccurate!
Whoa. Hold on there, Nellie. You know what they say about ‘assume’: it makes an ass of u and me.
So naturally I dove into my treasure trove of historical books—bunches of which are social histories of the 19th century—and went to work. (more…)
by Anna Kathryn Lanier
Noah Webster’s (1758-1843) first edition of AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE was released on April 14, 1828. I remembering hearing years ago that Webster wrote his dictionary because whenever he would say something to his wife over the breakfast table, she would reply “Now, what’s that supposed to mean?” I don’t know if this is true, an urban legend or just a joke.
Prior to the release of Webster’s Dictionary, he was already well known. From 1783-85, he released GRAMMATICAL INSTITUTE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, a three-part speller, grammar and reader. It made him the chief American authority on the English Language, which he felt had been corrupted by the British Aristocracy. According to www.reference.com, “The appropriate standard for the American language, argued Webster, was, ‘the same republican principles as American civil and ecclesiastical constitutions’, which meant that the people-at-large must control the language; popular sovereignty in government must be accompanied by popular usage in language.” (more…)
By Anna Kathryn Lanier
A few years ago I came across a reproduction copy of THE AMERICAN FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE. DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO ARE
NOT ASHAMED OF ECONOMY by Mrs. Child, originally printed in 1828. This reproduction is of the 12th addition, published in 1833. THE AMERICAN FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE “was an extremely popular nineteenth-century manual for homemakers. Interesting recipes and remedies, advice on
ing and the myriad responsibilities of housekeepin
g are all put forth in straightforward, no-nonsense, Yankee prose.”
A Very Short History
By Anna Kathryn Lanier
On January 29, 1853, Louis, Napoleon III, the new Emperor of France and the great Napoleon I’s nephew, wed Spanish aristocrat Eugénia in a civil ceremony. She was 22 and he was 44. She refused to consummate the marriage until after they were married in the church the following day.