Tea Party Winners: Carrie Fancett Pagels's winner per random.org is Brenda , Tamera Lynn Kraft's winner is: Connie, Shannon McNear's winner is: Lucy Reynolds

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dress, Shoes, and Stays - Oh My!

Lately I've had to make the leap in time from colonial fashion to early 19th-century fashion in the new novel I'm writing. Believe me, it's a tricky transition! Though Regency era clothing is lovely in some respects, my heart has always been at home with 18th-century fashions. My love affair with colonial dress began early. When I was a girl, my Kentucky granny sewed me a linen costume much like these above, complete with ivory apron, cap, and fichu, only my dress was burgundy. I loved it and wore it in the 1776 bicentennial parade in Lexington, Kentucky.I also had a love affair with paper dolls. Remember those McCall's magazines that had paper dolls? I awaited my mom's issues every month and cut out those costumes with glee:) When I look back now I see that I was being given inspiration even way back when. Over time I began to long for a "real" colonial gown of my own, a reproduction that would help me identify with the colonial heroines in my books. But these kinds of items are very expensive and I couldn't justify the cost. But, thankfully, the Lord often gives us the desires of our hearts in ways we least expect:) Last October I "stumbled" onto e-bay, a place I'd never been, and found a beautiful period gown. The lace on the gown I bought for a song is over 100 years old. It's made of high quality silk taffeta that rustles when you walk and truly feels like a dream. The seamstress is a colonial artist who sews period gowns for the models who are in her paintings. She was letting some of her gowns go for a very reasonable price and I happened upon this one dress right after she posted it for sale.
It didn't take long for me to discover you're only half-dressed for colonial times when you only have the dress. But stays - oh my! Almost as expensive as a gown! This photo shows "jumps" instead of stays. Anyone want to explain the difference? I'm still saving my shillings for stays.

Next item needed was a shift. I ordered this one. The feel of this linen shift is so different than cotton and gives a wonderful glimpse into the undergarments or "small clothes" people wore then. The stays go on over the shift, if you're wondering. I won't even begin to talk about pocket hoops and petticoats;)

This hat is from the Colonial Williamsburg collection and is my favorite. The needlework is exquisite, don't you think?
These complete a woman's wardrobe - clocked stockings and buckles and shoes. No, they're not mine but I can dream, can't I? All that's missing are the garters. My favorite thing about the colonial period? No underpants!

What fashion era do you like best?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review of Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland by Roseanna White

Fiction Monday Review

Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland
By Roseanna M. White
Summerside Press (December 2011)

Roseanna has written a beautiful book.  Her voice is fresh and lovely.  She lends authenticity to the story with her own history of having attended college in historic Annapolis.  Her love for the city is evident in her descriptions.  The story is set during the time Annapolis was the nation’s capital during a short time in 1783-84. Roseanna is a member of Colonial American Christian Writers, a group which I founded, and Roseanna also contributes to Colonial Quills, our group blog.  It was so fun seeing some of the topics we researched together as a group showing up in the book!  That was one of the neatest things about this novel, on a personal level.  We appreciate her acknowledgement of the group, as well! 

The premise for this book is not a typical romance nor even for historical romances.  So if the reader is expecting a cookie cutter romance this is not going to be their book. This is not a “let me settle in for my light romance” read.  Both the hero, Emerson Fielding,  and the heroine, Lark,  are flawed people who have a very significant parting right near the beginning.  This is a Christian fiction and both of these characters have the strongest character arcs I have seen since I can ever remember.  I suspect that is one of the many reasons RT gave this book their top amount of stars and selected it as the December Top Inspirational Pick.  There is profound change in Lark and Emerson, particularly as God leads them to be the persons they were meant to be and not who they had been at home in Virginia. 

One thing unique about this book is that the life issues of the young woman are portrayed with such authentic emotion as are Lark’s interpretation of her former fiance’s actions. Because Ms. White is still in her twenties, I believe she is well able to capture with a freshness and vivacity and authenticity the angst of this age group.  Granted, Roseanna married young and has little children, but it is clear when reading this book that she offers a unique and fresh author’s voice, and a way of characterization that is more in line with how a young person would indeed react. 

If you are going to read this book, don’t pick it up until you have several nights open in a row.  You will want to know what happens and won’t want to set this one aside and come back to it.

Bibliotherapy: The hero is a Revolutionary War veteran with PTSD.  The heroine has been “acting” out a role rather than displaying who God intended her to be.  She has been dishonest with herself and with others in revealing who and what she is.  Forgiveness and mercy and restoration of relationship are main themes.

Giveaway:  Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of this book in your choice of format.  Please leave your email address, also.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Colonial Recipes: Wassail

Back in Merry Ol' England--and hence in the Colonies that celebrated the holidays in English fashion like the mid-Atlantic--wassailing was an age-old tradition. It was a time for the poor to make the rounds in the wealthy neighborhoods and earn a few pence. They would concoct a batch of wassail and sell it door-to-door. Though oftentimes the wassail wasn't the tastiest thing to pass the lips, the wealthy bought it as a matter of course, as a way to give alms without offending the pride.

But who wants to share a not-so-tasty recipe? ;-) This version is more a mulled cider that will make your house smell delightful and will be a true toast to health and happiness in this blessed Yuletide season.

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 1 large can pineapple juice (unsweetened)
  • 3/4 cup tea
Place in a cheesecloth or mesh sack:
  • 1 Tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon whole allspice
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
Instructions: This is great cooked in a crock pot. Let it simmer very slowly for 4 to 6 hours. You can add water if it evaporates too much. Your home will smell wonderful, and this is a great way to set the tone for a holiday party!

Submitted by Roseanna White

Friday, November 25, 2011

John Winthrop: Another Unsung Hero

Title: John Winthrop, America’s Forgotten Founding Father
Author: Francis J. Bremer
Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2003

If good intentions could save a person’s soul, then there would be no doubt about John Winthrop’s soul.

John Winthrop was a man of vision. He sought to create a new land, pure from the corruption found in the Church of England, but his desire to do so came while he lived in England. A complex historical character, Mr. Winthrop is quoted by presidents, by scholars, and by laymen to support their ideology—whether or not Mr. Winthrop would have agreed.

In this book, we begin to grasp how the state of England, Christianity within the country, and the passion of life formed Mr. Winthrop’s own ideologies and theology.

I believe social pressures also formed much of Mr. Winthrop’s theology, more so perhaps than the Bible itself. An example of this is his own conclusion: “God Almighty in his most holy and wise providence hath so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor; some high and eminent in power and dignity, others mean and in subjection.” (p. 92-93) In life at this time, we see how some held more authority and privileges than others. This would be in contrast to the Apostle Paul’s letter to Philemon where Paul encourages the man to count his runaway slave, Onesimus, as an equal brother.

Even in England, Mr. Winthrop found himself in religious debate. In his home country the foundation was laid for some of the problems he would face in New England. Problems with such people as Anne Hutchinson, who would oppose the “covenant of works” she felt many of the Puritans held to.

But Mr. Winthrop did not seem so different than Mrs. Hutchinson, except perhaps in fervency to please God by his actions. He prayed that God “would give me a new heart, joy in his spirit; that he would dwell with me, that he would strengthen me against the world, the flesh, and the Devil, [and] that he would forgive my sins and increase my faith.” (p. 96) From my perspective, that sounds very consistent with Romans 10:9-10, 13:
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation….For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Also with II Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Thus he began his role as a Godly magistrate, a man bent on having a right fellowship with God. A few years later he was asked to join the Massachusetts Bay Company. This seemed agreeable to him since he had interest in carrying the gospel and the culture of England to different countries. In preparation for the trip across the Atlantic to New England, men gathered in the Church of the Holy Rood and sermons were given. An assumption is that John Winthrop’s famous A Modell of Christian Charity was given at this time, which contained the phrase “City upon a Hill.”

Today many see the Puritans as almost evil in their desire to establish a place wherein Christian values and morality would be upheld. Yet, for anyone who might grieve over the wicked state of our current world, one might find such an attitude refreshing. God, however, wants people to seek Him of their own free will. To be forced to follow Him via commands and human traditions was never the plan.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1
Perhaps we judge the Puritans so harshly because we do not understand their passion to remove themselves from evil. Yes, there were extremists. Isn’t there in every movement, whether political or religious or social? But for those who love God, who seek to please Him, and who long to one day go to their heavenly home, we can have empathy for their desire for good and not evil to reign. Perhaps we cannot agree with their methods, but we should be able to agree with their desire for purity and holiness and their longing for their heavenly home.

John Winthrop served as a governor for the Massachusetts Bay Colony through some tumultuous times. He saw God’s hand at work, despite man’s failings and imperfections.

When he neared death, Rev. John Cotton called for prayers for him saying about Governor Winthrop, “a governor who has been unto us a brother, not usurping authority over the church, often speaking his advice…often contradicted, even by young men and some of low degree, yet not replying, but offering satisfaction also when any supposed offenses have arisen…been unto us as a mother, parent-like distributing his goods to brethren and neighbors at his first coming, and gently bearing our infirmities without taking notice of them.” (p. 377).

John Winthrop died shortly after, on March 26, 1649. His legacy lives on, however, through our American values, and by those (like President Ronald Regan) who see John Winthrop's words worth repeating.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In Ye Olden Days - Thanksgiving in Early America

By our newest Quiller: Elaine Marie Cooper


Thanksgiving in Early America


   When we sit down at our Thanksgiving meal this month, we’ll be recreating a celebration that is as old as our country: sharing food with loved ones while thanking the God Who has provided the abundance.
   While we understand that the First Thanksgiving was celebrated here by the Mayflower survivors along with the Indians that had helped them, the first official proclamation that was decreed to celebrate such a holiday was in 1777. It was a recommendation to the thirteen states by the Continental Congress to set aside December 18th that year as a “solemn thanksgiving” to celebrate the first major victory for the Continental troops in the American Revolution: the Battle of Saratoga.
   The Battle of Saratoga has significant interest for my own family since one of my ancestors was a soldier there. But he was not on the American side—he was a British Redcoat. After surrendering to the Americans, he escaped the line of prisoners and somehow made his way to Massachusetts and into the life and heart of my fourth great-grandmother. *SIGH* L’amour!
   This family story was the inspiration for my Deer Run Saga that begins in 1777 with The Road to Deer Run. There is an elaborate Thanksgiving meal scene in this novel as well as in the sequel, The Promise of Deer Run.
   Some may wonder why such detail was afforded this holiday in my novels set in Massachusetts, while Christmas is barely mentioned. The reason is simple: Thanksgiving was the major holiday in the northern colonies, with Christmas considered nothing more special than a workday. According to Jack Larkin in his book, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, “The Puritan founders of New England and the Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania had deliberately abolished (holidays) as unscriptural.”
   But Thanksgiving was begun as a way to give thanks to God for His provision. It usually began with attending church services in the morning, followed by an elaborate feast in the afternoon. The food for this meal was prepared for weeks in advance.
   Since the individual state governors chose their own date to celebrate the holiday, it was theoretically possible for some family members—if they lived in close proximity—to celebrate multiple Thanksgiving meals with family and friends across state borders. The dates chosen could be anywhere from October to December, according to Dennis Picard, Director of the Storrowton Village Museum in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
Dennis Picard, Director of Storrowton Village Museum, West Springfield, Massachusetts

 Chicken was most commonly served, said Picard, as it was readily available in the barnyard. And the oldest woman in the home had the honor of slicing the fowl for dinner.
   Pies were made well in advance of the holiday and stored and became frozen in dresser drawers in unheated rooms.  
“I like the idea of pulling out a dresser drawer for, say, a clean pair of socks, and finding mince pies,” said Picard, tongue in cheek.
   Have a BLESSED Thanksgiving!
Bio:  Introducing a new member of the Colonial Quills Blogging Team - Elaine Cooper.  Welcome Elaine!  We are Thankful for you and Blessed that you have joined us!  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Interview with Roseanna White

Roseanna M. White is the author of Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland
Published by: Summerside Press
Date: 1 December 2011
Roseanna is also the author of two other books, both Biblical novels from WhiteFire Publishing, Her website is http://www.roseannamwhite.com/wordpress/

Roseanna, what got you interested in the colonial time period?
Actually, it was my interest in Annapolis itself that led me to this time period. I lived, worked, and attended college in historic Annapolis, and I fell in love with its charm and history. Intrigued to realize it had been the fledgling nation’s capital for six months in 1783-84, I dreamed of writing a story set there during that eventful period. When Summerside asked if I had any ideas for historical romances set in Maryland (after rejecting a contemporary, LOL), I pitched this idea, even though my agent at the time felt the setting was a long shot. To our delight, they loved it! And so I dove into all things Colonial/Early Federal.
It actually took me a while to really love it. At first the fashion seemed weird to me, I thought the powdered wigs were crazy, I wrinkled my nose at some of the customs, and I just couldn’t get my head out of the 19th century, which I had been writing in for years. But as I wrote my story and became more immersed in the time period, I really came to appreciate and adore it. So much so that I followed it promptly with another story set in 1780, which will be releasing from a different publisher 1 January 2013, in a year and a few odd weeks. =)

What inspired your latest colonial work?
Silly as it sounds, I was reading a romance right after college that had two secondary characters who were engaged but cool with one another. At the end of the book, they ended their betrothal, and the next book in the series was about the woman finding her “true” love now that she was free of the expected commitment. But what, I wondered, if they had stuck it out? What if they had fought to find that love with each other? What if her feelings hadn’t been mistaken at the start, but were mistaken now? And so I had the premise of Love Finds You in Annapolis—the story of a heroine who’s heart was broken by the hero at the beginning, and of a hero who decides to fall in love with his betrothed and discovers far more than he ever thought possible, something only the Lord could have given.

Do you have a favorite colonial place you like to visit and why?
Well, I do love visiting the historic district of Annapolis. It has some of the oldest remaining Colonial architecture in the country, and is just gorgeous to stroll through. All the street signs even have details on them about what the streets were formally called and when they were named! 
But a little closer to my current home in Western Maryland is Old Bedford Village in Pennsylvania. I visited this recreated town over the summer with my kids and just loved seeing the old buildings, the re-enactors, and getting a feel for everyday life in colonial days. My post about it was on the Quill a while back and can be seen here: http://colonialquills.blogspot.com/2011/10/in-ye-olden-days-hold-your-nose-put-on.html

Roseanna, do you have a favorite colonial recipe you enjoy? Would you care to share it with CQ readers?
Sure! Since it’s the holiday season, I’ll share a wassail recipe. From what I read, the kind that the poor took around and sold to the wealthy in the 1780s was actually a white, milky version not known for its yumminess, LOL, so I’ll share instead a good version for your Christmas party, which can be left to simmer in a crockpot and is basically a mulled cider.

Readers, you can find Roseanna’s recipe for wassail this coming Saturday on CQ.

Giveaway: This giveaway is twofold! First, anyone who comments here (please leave an email address) is entered to win a copy of Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland.

In addition, anyone who comments on this post (including Colonial Quill members) will be entered to win Roseanna's Great Annapolis Giveaway, pictured here. And there are more ways to rack up the entries, as this giveaway is ongoing! See Roseanna's blog for details: http://roseannamwhite.blogspot.com/p/great-annapolis-giveaway.html

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Colonial Recipes: Authentic Thanksgiving Recipes

To Make Sause for Foule (Turkey Gravy)

For turkeys…take gravie (presumably the drippings) & strong broth & leamon, minc’d, & grated bread, a spoonefull or 2 of claret wine & a little butter & if you have an anchovie. Give all a boyle together. 
From Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery

Servants preparing a Thanksgiving meal. One can only wish!

Enjoy these links that have some great authentic Colonial Thanksgiving Recipes:

Colonial American Thanksgiving

Create an Authentic New England Thanksgiving

Colonial Boston Thanksgiving

Submitted by Carla Gade

Friday, November 18, 2011

Research On A Shoestring: Fashion

We writers are a cheap lot. Many of us don't have a big budget for our research books. And let's face it, not everything we need or want or think we need can be found on the Web. In four years of managing the gift shop at Kent Plantation House in Alexandria, Louisiana, I gleaned some great, cheap fashion resources.

For the writer on a tight budget, Dover Publications is one of your very best friends. There's a ton of cheap, great resources there for nearly any time period and subject you can think of. But this post is dedicated to fashion, so I'm going to share a few tips for building your fashion research library without breaking the bank.

Tom Tierney. He is a costume historian, and an artist. Among other things, he does paper dolls for Dover. As of this writing when you type his name into the search box at Dover's website it comes back with 160 results. He's done everything from classic movie stars to American presidents and the musical Mikado.

But I want to specifically point your attention to his American Family series. He's done a variety of periods, including American Family of the Colonial Era and American Family of the Federal Era. If you read this blog, these two are must haves for your library.

What makes these paper dolls truly stand out is multiple generations of the family are represented. There are grandparents, parents, older teens and grade school age. The dolls are in period correct undergarments and each page of costumes includes a detailed description. Best of all they're $6.95. Coloring books are usually $3.95.

There are dozens of other gems hidden at Dover. Fashion plates from Godey's Lady's Book turned into paper dolls. Coloring books for anything you can imagine, paper dolls of Queen Victoria and Empress Eugenie, Emperor Franz Joseph, Byzantine era, French Baroque, American Family in the Pilgrim Era, Marie Antoinette, ancient Egypt, Shakespeare, Henry VIII and his wives, Carmen Miranda and Vivian Leigh. And I've barely scratched the surface here! You can even get reprints of Sears catalogs. I have one of fashion from the 1920's.

Dover is a great resource no matter what you're researching. And if you're a homeschooling mom, the coloring books are an excellent learning tool. My mom has at least fifty Dover coloring books that we used as part of school. And just looking through the search right now to write this post, I see at least three coloring books that I "need" for my own research purposes. (and so I can color in them)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The First Official Thanksgiving Proclamation

PROCLAMATION by the United States in Congress assembly: October 31, 1780

Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, amidst the vicissitudes and calamities of war, to bestow blessings on the people of these states, which call for their devout and thankful acknowledgments, more especially in the late remarkable interposition of his watchful providence, in rescuing the person of our Commander in Chief and the army from imminent dangers, at the moment when treason was ripened for execution; in prospering the labors of the husbandmen, and causing the earth to yield its increase in plentiful harvests; and, above all, in continuing to us the enjoyment of the gospel of peace;

It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart Thursday, the seventh day of December next, to be observed as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer; that all the people may assemble on that day to celebrate the praises of our Divine Benefactor; to confess our unworthiness of the least of his favors, and to offer our fervent supplications to the God of all grace; that it may please him to pardon our heinous transgressions and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws that it may please him still to afford us the blessing of health; to comfort and relieve our brethren who are any wise afflicted or distressed; to smile upon our husbandry and trade and establish the work of our hands; to direct our public councils, and lead our forces, by land and sea, to victory; to take our illustrious ally under his special protection, and favor our joint councils and exertions for the establishment of speedy and permanent peace; to cherish all schools and seminaries of education, build up his churches in their most holy faith and to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth.

Done in Congress, the last day of October, 1780, and in the fifth year of the independence of the United States of America.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Colonial Quills Prize Basket!

Hear ye, hear ye! Here's your chance to contribute to a wonderful cause this holiday season--and come away with some of your favorites from the Colonial Quill authors!

One year ago, author and editor Sandi Rog had a big day approaching--the release of her first novel, The Master's Wall. Set in first-century Rome, this is an epic story of faith and love. But the very day her book released, Sandi's life shattered--she learned she had a very aggressive cancer, t-cell lymphoma.

The past year has been a huge struggle for Sandi and her family as she underwent chemo, radiation, and bone marrow transfusion. Just when she thought she had this beast beat, she learned that in fact the cancer is still present. So they're trying a new treatment . . . this one not covered by insurance.

Sandi's friends, both neighbors and online, have rallied together to try to help the Rog family, and Alison Strobel Morrow has developed a marvelous plan. She's hosting a raffle fundraiser whose proceeds will go to the Rogs, with a goal of $20,000. The items to be raffled are all donated, and tickets are $5. You can purchase as many as you want and apply as many tickets per prize basket as you like.

The Colonial Quills, many of whom are dear friends of this dear woman, have put together a complete box of goodies to be raffled off! The raffle will begin on November 25th, and the CQ items include:

* A signed copy of Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland by Roseanna M. White
* A copy of Highland Crossings, signed by contributing author Gina Welborn
* A Pampered Chef knife & dual sharpener - the knife being the favorite utensil of the confectioner heroine of Gina's story, and who wants a dull one?
* A signed copy of The Chamomile by Susan F. Craft
* A packet of chamomile seeds & a packet of chamomile tea
* A mobcap
* A $15 Starbucks gift card
* And your choice of one of these three titles: Surrender the Dawn by MaryLu Tyndall, Fire Dragon's Angel by Barbara Blythe, or The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz

To get in on the fun and also have the joy of helping a family in need of our prayers and support, please visit www.FundraiserForSandiRog.blogspot.com to view the CQ "basket" and many more! 

Have items you'd like to donate to the cause? Check out the information page at the fundraiser blog. (Individual items will be gathered into "baskets" by the coordinator.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Colonial Recipes: Shrewsbury Cakes

Shrewsbury Cakes (Cookies, pronounced Shrows-bree)

1 pound Sugar
3 pounds Flour
3 Eggs
melted Butter

Sift one pound of sugar, some pounded cinnamon, and a nutmeg grated, into three pounds of flour, the finest sort; add a little rose-water to three eggs, well-beaten, and mix these with the flour, etc. then pour into it as much butter melted as will make it a good thickness to roll out. Mold it well, and roll thin, and cut it into such shapes as you like. Bake in light oven.

Taken from: A new system of domestic cookery: formed upon principles of economy: and adapted to the use of private families throughout the United States by Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell, 1814

A modern version:

1/4 c. unsalted butter
1/4 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. of grated orange peel
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
3 Tbl. milk
2 c. sifted all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cream or tartar


Cream the butter, shortening and sugar. Add the orange peel and vanilla extract. Add the egg and milk. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar and add to the creamed mixture. Mix well. Roll into 1-inch balls and roll the balls in sugar. Arrange the balls 1-1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten the balls gently with a small glass. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until very light golden brown.

Submitted by Carla Gade

Friday, November 11, 2011


“There was a time before our time,
It will not come again,
When the best ships were the wooden ships
But the men were iron men.”

Clipper Ships and Captains
Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet

Veteran’s Day should be a day when all Americans take time to reflect on and be thankful for the service of so many men and women throughout our 236 years as a nation. I am appreciative not only for those who have served our great country over all these years but particularly for two sons and a son-in-law who are currently serving in the military.

Midshipman Henry G. Taylor
Ours was a Navy family; but it also included men who served in almost all branches of the armed forces. My oldest son graduated from the Naval Academy in 2001, and like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather before him is a naval officer. As a girl I remember my grandfather, a retired Navy Admiral, referring to the good old days of “iron men and wooden ships. His stories of attending the Naval Academy 1903-1907, and sailing with The Great White Fleet fascinated me. I loved exploring the Academy in Annapolis, MD and reading about its history as well as the origins of the U.S. Navy.

Prior the Revolution, there were colonists who served in the British naval campaigns against Spain and France. By 1775 Americans were growing disenchanted with British rule and realized that any conflict with Britain would mean that the Atlantic Ocean would very likely become a theater of war. On October 13, 1775 the Continental Congress authorized two armed vessels to sail and search for munitions ships that were supplying the British Army in America.

It was not Congress’ intent to contest Britain’s control of the seas, only to wage attacks on their merchant shipping with the goal of cutting off their supplies to support their war efforts. The Continental Congress built up its fledgling navy by new construction, purchases and conversion of existing ships to twenty warships during the course of the war. Most of them were later destroyed by the British or by Americans to prevent their capture.

Peale’s portrait
John Paul Jones
It would be Scottish born John Paul Jones, a seafaring man with a history of serving on British ships and some run-ins with the law, a sympathizer with the colonial cause who would provide America with some crucial victories. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Continental Navy in December of 1775 and given the command of The Alfred. Over the next six years he had command of several ships and experienced numerous victories. It was while serving at the helm of the Bonhomme Richard in 1779, he captured the HMS Serapis. As his ship sunk beneath him he notably uttered “I have not yet begun to fight!”

After accepting a position in the Russian navy in 1788, he ran afoul of Empress Catherine’s military leaders and returned to Paris. In 1790 he was offered a military commission by George Washington, but his health had already begun to fail. In 1792, President George Washington and Thomas Jefferson signed a commission making John Paul Jones an official citizen of the United States and appointing him American consul to Algeria to clean up the piracy problems along the Barbary Coast. A month later at the age of forty-five the self proclaimed “citizen of the world” died and was buried in a leaden coffin in a cemetery for foreign Protestants in Paris where he would remain for 114 years.

In 1899 American Ambassador to France General Horace Porter began an intensive search through Paris for John Paul Jones grave, finally locating it after nearly six years. President Theodore Roosevelt charged Congress with appropriating the funds needed to exhume the American hero. The arduous task of retrieving the body and the subsequent autopsy validated his identity, made easier because the body had been preserved in brandy.

Annapolis was eventually chosen as John Paul Jones’ final resting place. In 1906 Jones was finally given the military honors he so often sought during his lifetime, first with an elaborate procession through Paris, by train to Cherbourg, then by transatlantic crossing with a fleet of eleven military vessels, and finally with a grand ceremony at Annapolis.

Painted scene of the Great
White Fleet from Silk Banner
The 1906 celebration of the “Father of the American Navy” was part of a larger public relations move on the part of President Roosevelt to promote US Naval sea power. In 1907, the same year my grandfather graduated from the Naval Academy, the President sent The Great White Fleet on a fourteen month circumnavigation of the world. Ensign Taylor was one of the 14,000 naval and marine personnel on twenty-eight ships that embarked from Hampton Roads to see the world.

John Paul Jones’ Crypt at the
U.S. Naval Academy
Photo courtesy of Travelbeat.net
The US Naval Academy Chapel, “The Cathedral of the Navy” was completed in 1912. John Paul Jones was laid to rest below the chapel in a dimly lit crypt watched over by an honor guard, where the ornate marble sarcophagus is supported by four bronze dolphins. Many inlays in the floor and glass cases along the walls display artifacts and facts of his remarkable life. This is a stop you don’t want to miss while touring the Academy yard.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In Ye Olden Days - Fashion Babies

Ever wonder how people kept up on fashion back in the day? I mean, in the 18th century fashion was EVERYTHING. Even here in the colonies--in fact, a London man described our balls and gowns as far more fashion-forward than anything to be seen in London. (Not his exact words, but that's the gist, LOL.) But it wasn't exactly the age of full-color magazines . . . nor of Fashion Weeks. They didn't have Style or E! and certainly couldn't browse Ideeli daily for awesome bargains on designers.

So they looked at dolls. Yep, that's right. Marie Antoinette was more than a leader of France in the late 18th century, she was the unanimously agreed upon leader of fashion the world over. And whenever Marie Antoinette appeared in a new style, her peeps would make miniature versions of it for dolls and send those dolls to every major port.

It may have taken two months, but those "fashion babies" arrived on our doorsteps and brought detailed examples from the Queen of Fashion into our lives. And so, though it moved at a snail's pace compared to our changes from season to season now, styles changed far more quickly than they had in centuries prior.
All thanks to prettily made up baby dolls. =)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Frontier fiction for Children: William O. Steele

By Lori Benton

I've made a happy reading discovery. His name is William O. Steele (1917-1979). He was the award-winning author of historical fiction for children written in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Particularly fiction set on the 18th century frontier of Tennessee. That's why I've just discovered him, because I'm writing a novel set on the eastern Tennessee frontier in the latter quarter of the 18th century, and it's always part of my research process to scour my local library and Amazon for novels set in the time period and setting I'm writing about, both for inspiration, a broader view of time and place, and to be sure I'm not writing a book that's already been written!

Thus it happened that I found William Steele, and his book The Man with the Silver Eyes.

"Talatu (which means "the Cricket" in the language of the Cherokee) has spent his young life hating the whites, who have taken his people's land and driven them deep into the wilderness. He is stunned when his beloved great-uncle tells him he must accompany Shinn, a white man with the palest eyes Talatu has ever seen, to the settlement of Watauga, where he is to spend a year with him. Autumn becomes winter as Talatu continues to despise the white Quaker who attempts to live in peace with his frontier neighbors, and he dreams of joining his warrior uncles in attacks on the white settlers.

Set against the backdrop of the raging Revolution and the tensions of frontier living in 1780, William O. Steele has written a memorable story about an encounter between a young Cherokee boy and a white Quaker trader culminating in a confrontation that transforms Talatu from a sullen and suspicious boy into a resolute and courageous man."

~ from the book's jacket flap

Child-me would have adored this story back in 1976, when it was published. She would have gone on to devour every book this man wrote. It was in 1978, after all, that I wrote my first story about a Lakota girl called Yellow Feather, and the wounded mustang she nursed back to health, tamed, and rode in a race to win a prize. I do wish I'd discovered him back in the 1970s when the first stirrings of this frontier fiction lover's wee heart were being fed over and over and over again by the Little House books (always wishing Laura would run off to visit the Indians her Ma so feared).

Grown-up-me is still hungry for books like The Man with the Silver Eyes, in which characters from different frontier races, or those caught between races, overcome monumental differences in culture and world view to find the common ground of friendship. Better late than never, I say, to have found Mr. Steele's books. And with titles like the following listed on this book's "by the same author" page, I will be spending many enjoyable hours visiting Mr. Steele's frontier world.

The Buffalo Knife
Wilderness Journey
Winter Danger
Tomahawks and Trouble
Davy Crockett's Earthquake
The Lone Hunt
Flaming Arrows
Daniel Boone's Echo
Andy Jackson's Water Well
The Far Frontier
The Year of the Bloody Sevens
The No-Name Man of the Mountain
Trail Through Danger
The Old Wilderness Road

The Man With The Silver Eyes at Amazon

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Colonial Recipes: Apple Jelly

Basic Apple or Crab Apple Jelly
  • tart (underripe) apples or crab apples
  • water
  • 3/4 cup sugar for every cup of juice
Porters or MacIntosh will make a sweet jelly; Gravensteins or Greenings will make a spicier jelly.
You will need enough apples to fill a large kettle. Wipe the apples and remove the stems and the blossom ends and cut in quarters (do not pare—a large amount of the natural pectin is lodged in and just under the skin). Cut crab apples in halves. Put prepared apples in a large stainless steel or enameled kettle. Add cold water to almost cover the fruit—there should be about an inch of apples out of the water, but you should be able to see the water level in the kettle. Cover and cook slowly over low heat until the apples are soft.
Mash the fruit slightly while it is still in the kettle. Suspend over a large bowl a damp jelly bag or colander lined with wet cheesecloth. The juice will drip through the bag or colander into the bowl. Pour the kettle contents, fruit and liquid, into the bag or colander and allow the juice to drip through into the bowl overnight. 

Meanwhile, do something else so that you will not be tempted to squeeze the bag to hurry things along. 

Squeezing (or pushing through the colander) will not hurt the flavor of the jelly, but it will cloud it as minute particles of pulp will come through into the juice.

When the juice has dripped through, measure out 4 cups (leave the rest for another batch). Heat the sugar in a double boiler; with 4 cups of juice, you'll need 3 cups of sugar. Bring the juice to a full rolling boil, then add the heated sugar and bring the mixture back to a full rolling boil. Boil quickly, stirring, until the candy thermometer reads 8 degrees above the boiling point (about 220°F) or until the jelly sheets off the spoon. Skim and pour into jelly glasses and seal.

From Farmer's Almanac: Colonial Cookbook

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tools of the Trade: Portraits ~ First Ladies

As a historical fiction author, the lives of those who came before us are especially meaningful. The lives of the first ladies of the 18th and early 19th centuries are intriguing, their strength to hold their families and marriages tightly bonded through adverse times is a legacy each woman should ponder.

In my novel, Beside Two Rivers, to be released in the fall of 2012, there are five female cousins to my heroine, Darcy Morgan. Darcy's name alone is irrevocably early American. Her cousins are all named after first ladies. Martha, Abigail, Dolly, Lizzy, and Louisa. Martha is the oldest, the most controlled of the five. Abigail is more outspoken. Dolly is young and demure. Lizzy shy but interested in gaining suitors. Louisa is reserved and not yet old enough to find affairs of the heart her pursuit. Darcy, on the other hand, possesses all of these qualities.

When planning a novel, I have a file of photos and paintings that reflect how I imagine my characters. This gives me a wonderful inner visual. Alongside the pictures I have the names of the characters and a few sentences about their personalities.

Here are the finest portraits of the first ladies. They were all born during the Colonial Era and lived through the Revolution. Art has and will always be a source of research for writing historical fiction. These paintings inspire as well as educate a writer on clothing, hair style, and if you look closely demeanor.

Martha Washington

Abigail Adams

Dolly Madison

Elizabeth Monroe

Louisa Adams

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nathaniel Griffith on the Horse's Natural Habitat

Greetings friends. For those of you new to me, I am Nathaniel Griffith. Please, let me close this gate to our horse pasture.

This is the best pasture in Aquidneck Island. It took years to get it this way. When we first came to the island in 1651 this land was primarily bush and trees. We cleared what we could and let the grass take over. What makes this pasture particularly good is the mixture of grasses.

A horse’s natural habitat is grasslands, where there food is plentiful and there are little visual obstacles (for example, mountains, forests, etc.). My uncle took me to Dartmoor in South England where wild ponies run. They thrive there because they can see their enemies in time to flee.

Grasslands also have harder ground than rainforests or more humid regions, and therefore the horse's feet are kept tough.

This wetter country requires more care in keeping the horse’s hooves from rotting. Also, this country requires us to provide shelter for our horses from the rain, where dryer grasslands would not. A gully or side of a hill would suffice to block cold winds there. The occasional tree in low lands would provide shelter from the sun.

We are plagued with flies here, but grasslands have fewer flies. The dry air and constant wind keep them at bay. Here, ye will notice, we fight a constant battle with the pestilent creatures.

See that large mare over there? She’s a heavy draft horse from France. Horses like her come from more humid and cold areas, like Northern Europe. Her stockier build requires a more succulent grass and lots of it compared with the smaller horse, like my bay gelding. I bought him from a merchant who swore he was an Arabian.

The bay is an easy keeper. That is, he doesn’t require as much grass as the mare. His thin coat, however, makes him more susceptible to rainrot, a condition where a horse left in the rain for long periods at a time develops a skin infection leaving scabs in place of hair. The draft mare seems to handle the rain better. Her coat is thicker, ye see.

Because of the amount of rain we get on the island, I find I must bring the horses into the barn at night and during a rainstorm. The merchant who brought the bay horse to me told of how the Arabians rarely stabled their horses, at least as compared with us English.

One day I hope to lay bricks on the floor of my barn. This will help to keep the horses’s feet dry. For now, we dig trenches to direct the runoff out of the barn and away from their feet. We are careful to daily clean their hooves. This will help prevent rotting.

Look over at the patch of ground by those trees. Ye see how it is muddier than the rest of the pasture? Horses tend to use an area of a pasture for a privy. I personally consider this helpful, rather than soiling the entire pasture. I can more easily clean the area, pile the manure, and use it for our garden in a year’s time.

Horses in the wild will move from place to place. If ye look to your right and to your left, ye will notice the fence lines dividing this large area into three. I do this so I can move the horses from field to field. This keeps the pastures from being overgrazed and reduces the worms and flies.

I see Mr. Easton is coming down the trail. If ye will excuse me, I need to speak to him about some land on the southern part of the island. I hope to move some cattle there next month. Godspeed to you.