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Postcards from Chautauqua: Saturday in the Park with Pansy

8 Aug

A Sunset service at Palestine Park

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“Nevertheless, she suffered herself to be persuaded to go for a walk, provided Eurie would go to Palestine….Flossy explained to her that she had a consuming desire to wander along the banks of the Jordan and view those ancient cities, historic now.” (Four Girls at Chautauqua)

Sometimes, I really, really wish I could take the Way Back Machine and latch onto Pansy’s group as they enjoyed the apparently mesmerizing lectures by a flamboyant Middle Eastern-born tour guide named Augustus Oscar Van Lennep. Not content to introduce the lakeside miniature Holy Lands that are a relic of Chautauqua’s Sunday School Assembly days, this enterprising, creative fellow dolled up in “Oriental” costume to give his lectures. That’s our man below, lounging in Rajah-like style, while his indulgent friends retain their upright Victorian postures.

Courtesy of the Chautauqua Institution Archives.

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Gus must have had an equally fun set of folks who joined him—witness his jolly crew of costumed believers at Palestine Park in 1875/6-ish. Can you imagine??? Oh, how much fun must that have been!

Courtesy of the Chautauqua Institution Archives.

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Alas, today the Park is largely neglected and used more as a family playground than an instructional living map.

I’ve been studying a 1920’s Bible Atlas by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut (Chautauqua lecturer, founding father, and big-time booster) to gain a working knowledge of the Holy Lands. As Dr. Vincent believed, I think understanding the topography and layout, relative distances and terrain of Palestine environs is extremely helpful when reading Scripture. I mean, when you see how far Gideon and his 300 brave soldiers had to track the Philistines, you really do understand why he was so angered when the locals wouldn’t give them any foods to keep their strength up!

According the Pansy’s many charming references to the Palestine Park, students were treated to not only the basic layout, but tiny townscapes and identifying plaques dotted the carefully crafted map. Bible verses connecting each significant stop provided context—and reasserted the importance of the location for the Christ-following traveler.

Today, in an effort to keep the residual charm of the place, small cast iron plaques are embedded along the landscape—they’re kept painted and somewhat landscaped. I understand there’s a “tour” each Sunday night and I hope to attend it someday.

I paced off various Bible place names made familiar by my Old Testament studies and was genuinely surprised to see how concentrated a radius these events encompassed. Here’s Jerusalem in relation to the Mount of Olives, only a stone’s throw from Bethany.

Mount Hermon in the distance provides the perfect “king of the hill” locale for the resort’s kiddie population. The impressive crevasse made me wonder if erosion hadn’t made the Jordan Valley a bit too deep?

“Here we are, on ‘Jordan’s stormy banks…I suppose there was never a more perfect geographical representation than this.” (Four Girls at Chautauqua)

Compared to the vintage postcards you’ll find in this blog’s archived Chautauqua posts (see the links at the conclusion of this post), I’d say the accuracy factor might be off a bit these days.

I found it charming that Jericho was in “ruins”—the flat-topped ancient buildings crumbled and scattered, like those of Hebron (though I’m not certain these ruins were intentional.)

Is someone is tending Jacob’s Well? Even on the dry day I visited, it was filled with water.

My favorite? The truly little town of Bethlehem.

I read the plaque as I exited the park, wistful at the thought of those tent-dwelling Sunday School teachers, nestling eagerly beside the “Mediterranean Sea” and along the shores of the Jordan, to understand more about the lands their spiritual ancestors walked.

What would they make of this rarely visited, gently poignant reminder of the Park’s original purpose? Today, no Bible markers or tablets grace the small stony stand-ins, no tiny replica buildings remain to represent scenes from the life of Jesus as they did in Pansy’s time. I turned my gaze to Chautauqua Lake, imagining the steamer pulling up to the nearby dock and unloading four lively 19th century girls, eager for fun, not knowing they would never be the same, thanks to their time in this beautiful place.

“Now, the actual fact is, that those three people wandered around that far-away land until the morning vanished … They went from Bethany to Bethel, and from Bethel to Shechem, and they even climbed Mount Hermon’s snowy peak and looked about on the lovely plain below. In every place there was Bible reading …” (Four Girls at Chautauqua)

Thanks for allowing me to share these mementos with you of my all-too-brief Chautauqua visit. My hope and prayer is to return soon to follow further in Isabella’s footsteps.

My fascination has led me to launch a tribute Chautauqua Literary & Science Circle reading plan—I’m pairing 19th century texts with contemporary works and next August, I hope to carry the Pansy Year banner in the Recognition Day parade. Interested readers can follow along with my literary journey at my blog, The Hall in the Grove.

Dusting off my sandals,
Karen

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If you missed previous posts about Chautauqua Institution, you can read them by clicking on the links below:

Postcards from Chautauqua – Pansy-trod Pathways

Postcards from Chautauqua – On a Pilgrimage

Postcards from Chautauqua – Summer of 2017

A Tour of Chautauqua: Getting There

A Tour of Chautauqua: Strolling the Grounds

A Tour of Chautauqua: Where to Stay

A Tour of Chautauqua: Lectures and Classes

A Tour of Chautauqua: Having Fun

A Tour of Chautauqua: The Teachers’ Retreat

A Tour of Chautauqua: A Healthy Body

A Tour of Chautauqua: Palestine Park

100 Years Ago at Chautauqua

Postcards from Chautauqua: Pansy-trod Pathways

2 Aug

“I was coming down the hill, away off, you know, by the post office…”
(Four Girls at Chautauqua)

A walk through Bestor Plaza, toward the fountain and the library beyond.

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“All the younger portion of the congregation seemed to be rushing back up the hill again…”
(Four Girls at Chautauqua)

On day two of my Chautauqua wanderings, I stopped for a breather in lovely Bestor Plaza (the perpetual hill-climbing here is murder!). This carefully tended, beautifully landscaped watering hole and gathering spot commemorates the life and contributions of Arthur Bestor, Chautauqua’s president from 1915 to until his death in 1944.

The keynotes of his presidency are struck in the centrally placed fountain, where monumental icons to Knowledge, Religion, Music, and Art dominate the waterworks.

While I cooled my heels and absorbed the view, I noticed a Post Office in one corner of the Plaza and followed my curiosity there.

The Chautauqua post office, as it appeared in the 1920s

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Hoping to find postcards, I instead found a delightful hybrid of contemporary governmental efficiency and mid-Victorian charm. No one was around to quiz about the dates and history, so I let my imagination wander as I snapped these personal postcards.

Did Isabella post a few notes to her friends from this window?

Did Pansy receive some of her fan mail via one of these charmingly designed post office boxes?

Did someone from the Alden household purchase stamps here?

Did Pansy send her niece Grace to claim a package here?

Did this busy hive of cubbies shelter a stirring new work by a favorite author for Pansy to read sitting on a lakeside rustic bench?

How many newspapers passed through here to enlighten and entertain the 19th century crowd?

Discovering artistically elaborate fittings like these for something as pedestrian as mailboxes confirms my belief that Chautauqua’s ongoing commitment to enriching every aspect of life is more than lip service. Their original ideals of glorifying each element of one’s life—dedicating it to the Lord and ennobling the humblest of tasks—is inspiring and convicting.

Take a close look at the door frame of the Postmaster’s office. See the totally unnecessary but utterly beautiful detail there? Maybe it’s time for us to imitate those who recognized that every moment of our days, no matter how mundane, can be an opportunity to worship the Creator Who made all things beautiful?

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Finding my roots (and leaves and blossoms)

“The museum was not; it had not yet been evolved. Neither had the lovely hall. Where it stands was a grove…I dreamed out many a flower-strewn path leading to it…”
(Eighty-Seven)

As I left the Post Office, I admired the plaza’s beautiful flower beds, brimming with summer’s prettiest blooms.

The flowers reminded me of yesterday’s pilgrimage to The Hall in the Grove and some touchingly innocent 19th century floral-themed mosaics that wreathed the speaker’s platform, celebrating the C.L.S.C.’s earliest classes. Can you even imagine a contemporary co-ed reading circle allowing themselves to be dubbed “The Pansy Class”? Hardly.

I loved all these timeless tributes, but one class year stopped me in my tracks. There they were, my spiritual, cultural, and literary “ancestors”—the C.L.S.C. Class of 1884: “Irrepressibles.” While I obviously feel a deep kinship with all things Pansy, I must admit everything in me said “Yes!” as I stood, motionless, before this joyful declaration of literary enthusiasm.

So, this day, while I enjoyed the blaze of seasonal glory, I nodded a special ‘hello” to my new favorite flower, the confident, courageous lily. The buoyant Class of 1884 couldn’t have a better floral representation than the trumpet-shaped blossom that symbolically celebrates Christ’s promise of eternal life.

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Irrepressibly His, Karen.

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In her final Postcards guest post, Karen guides us on a walk through Chautauqua’s miniature Holy Land.

If you missed previous posts about Chautauqua Institution, you can read them by clicking on the links below:

Postcards from Chautauqua – On a Pilgrimage

Postcards from Chautauqua – Summer of 2017

A Tour of Chautauqua: Getting There

A Tour of Chautauqua: Strolling the Grounds

A Tour of Chautauqua: Where to Stay

A Tour of Chautauqua: Lectures and Classes

A Tour of Chautauqua: Having Fun

A Tour of Chautauqua: The Teachers’ Retreat

A Tour of Chautauqua: A Healthy Body

A Tour of Chautauqua: Palestine Park

100 Years Ago at Chautauqua

Postcards from Chautauqua: On a Pilgrimage

26 Jul

Karen Noske joins us again to share photos and descriptions of the Chautauqua landmarks she explored this summer, with Isabella Alden’s novels in mind. Welcome back, Karen!


My next objective was the Hall of Christ, as there was an archival lecture to be given momentarily on one of the most influential early religious leaders at Chautauqua, the renowned Shailer Mathews.

I imagined how Isabella might have felt, sitting in this arena, listening to contemporary reflections on the man whose influence changed the course of the Institute in so many ways.

The Hall of Christ, as it appears today.

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“The Hall of the Christ, is first of all, to stand in the center of Chautauqua to represent Christ as the center of all learning and all true living; the Key to the true and eternal wisdom…a Hall where Jesus Christ is enthroned; where only his story is allowed; told in print and picture and sculpture and the human voice. Isn’t it grand!”

(Four Mothers at Chautauqua)

The workmanlike interior of the unprepossessing Hall of Christ makes me wonder if there haven’t been many changes to it over the years.

The Hall of Christ as it appeared in 1909

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The general atmosphere is one of beneficent neglect and exhaustion. A magnificent organ dominates the stage—sadly, it was eclipsed by the speaker’s screen and I only got this tantalizing glimpse of it.

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Engrossing as the lecture was, I was glad to make my way out towards my next objective—the centerpiece of Chautauqua for Isabella and, as it turned out, for me.

The Hall in the Grove

Directly adjacent to the Hall of Christ is the cherished “Hall in the Grove.” I recognized it immediately by its prominence and its beauty:

“If you have up to this time been even a careless reader of this volume, you have doubtless discovered that the center of Chautauqua life was the ‘Hall in the Grove.’ A beautiful grove, with trees old enough and grand enough to be worthy of their baptismal name—”St Paul’s Grove.” White-pillared, simple, plain, yet suggestive of such a brilliant past and hinting of such a glorified future … this bit of green and white, with a glimmer of lake between.”

(The Hall in the Grove, page 286)

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The dedication plaque on the “Hall in the Grove” reads, “Erected in 1900 on the site of an earlier wooden hall placed here in 1879. This building was erected by the generous gifts of members of C.L.S.C. classes and other friends of Chautauqua.”

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A talk by the very popular Bill Moyers (of CBS News fame) was just finishing up, so I crept in around the edges and starting following the elaborate and beautiful mosaics that frame the lecture hall’s floor.

“All was quiet there. The sunset meeting which had been held in that white, still place was closed sometime since, and their feet, as they stepped on the floor, resounded throughout the vacant Hall.”

(The Hall in the Grove, page 240)

I was delighted to find the shield of Pansy’s Class of 1887 in a place of genuine honor—nestled around the corners of the lectern.

The lectern platform itself is still a modest affair, virtually unchanged since Pansy’s class approached to celebrate their graduation. Let’s join Paul Adams from The Hall in the Grove here:

“Arrived at the white, quiet building, he entered it with soft tread, and, under an impulse which he did not in the least understand, uncovered his head. He stepped softly onto the platform, drew the armchair, which was the seat of honor, forward a trifle, and settled himself in it. Then he brought up before him in review the many and varied and wonderful experiences which the weeks had brought him in connection with that spot … Then he got down from the professor’s chair and … after a silent last look at the Hall, he walked home with Joe, they two speaking words together that were better than marble columns or millions of money, for they represented manhood.”

(The Hall in the Grove, page 382)

In The Hall in the Grove, Isabella shares a peek into her heart:

“…the gleaming pillars of the Hall of Philosophy rose up before him; something in the purity and strength and quaintness seemed to have gotten possession of him. Whether it was a shadowy link between him and some ancient scholar or worshiper I cannot say … but treading the Chautauquan avenues for the first time … his young heart thrill[ed] with a hope and a determination, neither of which he understood, every time he saw those gleaming pillars.”

(The Hall in the Grove, page 198)

When Caroline Raynor (another character in The Hall in the Grove) objects to the Hall being made in the style of a Temple of Minerva, she is vigorously corrected by her soon-to-be suitor, Robert:

“I like it exceedingly. Let the beautiful white temple be rescued from its heathen desecration and dedicated to the service of the good and true God our Father, and his Son Jesus Christ.”

(page 204)

I passed an ancient oak near one of entrances that was garmented in ivy and wondered … if I parted the ivy, would I find a lichen-crusted carving in the tree reading “Vine, 22, 1887”? (EightySeven, page 12.)

I surely saw what Dr. Winter Kelland did when …

“he and Vine walked … around under the hill, and up the hill, and come out beside the white-pillared hall and stopped under one of the tallest trees, and looked about them, and were silent. Dr. Kelland took off his hat and looked up reverently to the very top of the tall tree, beyond the top, into the blue of heaven.”

(Eighty-Seven, page 318)

As I walked reluctantly away from the Hall, I looked up and felt sure I was seeing the same trees, the same sky, the same view Pansy enjoyed in Four Girls at Chautauqua:

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“None of all … who spent the day within the shadow of that sweet and leafy place have surely forgotten how the quaint and quiet beauty of the place and its surrounding fell upon them; they know just how the birds sang among those tall old trees; they know just how still and blue and clear the lake looked as they caught glimpses of it through the quivering green of myriad leaves …”

(Four Girls at Chautauqua, page 180)


Next time, Karen makes a little visit to the Chautauqua Post Office before trekking to the “Holy Land.”


If you missed previous posts about Chautauqua Institution, you can read them by clicking on the links below:

Postcards from Chautauqua – Summer of 2017

A Tour of Chautauqua: Getting There

A Tour of Chautauqua: Strolling the Grounds

A Tour of Chautauqua: Where to Stay

A Tour of Chautauqua: Lectures and Classes

A Tour of Chautauqua: Having Fun

A Tour of Chautauqua: The Teachers’ Retreat

A Tour of Chautauqua: A Healthy Body

A Tour of Chautauqua: Palestine Park

100 Years Ago at Chautauqua

Postcards from Chautauqua—Summer of 2017

19 Jul

For Isabella Alden there were few places on earth more dear to her than Chautauqua Institution. She spent many summers there, and was greatly involved in the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (C.L.S.C.).

You can judge just how great an impact Chautauqua had on her by the loving manner in which she described the place in her Chautauqua books, which she wrote in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

Chautauqua Institution is still a thriving summer destination for thousands of people. Earlier this month, Karen Noske, a regular reader of this blog, took a trip to Chautauqua. Today she is sharing the highlights of her quest to see for herself  the beloved Chautauqua locations Isabella so dearly loved and faithfully described in her books.

Take it away, Karen!


Like many of Pansy’s fans, I’ve longed to walk the “tree-shaded” avenues of her hallowed Chautauqua, and decided to take the plunge this summer, as I live only about 3 hours east.

For your enjoyment and education, I offer these guest posts as a sort of “now and then” view of many of the places mentioned in her books Eighty-Seven, The Hall in the Grove, and Four Girls at Chautauqua.

I’ve limited my review to those seminal books as they hold some of the richest treasures for modern-day Chautauquans and fans.

(For much more detailed information about this cultural retreat, you can find a list of previous posts about Chautauqua at the end of this post.)

Climbing ever higher

I should have paid more attention to the carefully worded descriptions of Isabella Alden’s favorite summer retreat, Chautauqua. In her marvelously descriptive and touching books about its lakeside, forested environs, she often mentioned that her characters “went down” to the lake or “went up” to the dining tent or the grove.

As I breathlessly labored to keep from running pell-mell down the steep inclines that make up 90% of the avenues here, I realized she’d been remarkably coy about this physical aspect of the grounds. Mountain goats would love this place.

After stowing my meager luggage in one of the many charming cottages that cling defiantly to the nearly vertical hillside, I hiked up to my first stop—the Archives, where I hoped to meet Pansy by way of her works.

This small brick building houses the full complement of the C.L.S.C. volumes, from the year of this reading circle’s inception (1878) to the present day.

Her eyes lighted with pleasure as she recognized it. This, at least, was an old friend: Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation. She did not need to read the letters on the title page to make sure that the book—so like her own—bore that name. “C.L.S.C?” she said, hardly realizing that she said it.

(The Hall in the Grove, pg 202)

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I was delighted to find Pansy’s The Hall in the Grove (required reading for the C.L.S.C. class of 1881-82) snuggled between weightier academic tomes shown here.

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I hunted for, and found the impossibly dense (reportedly dry, according to more than one The Hall in the Grove character!) Merivale’s History of Rome … one brief dip into it made me admire “Paul Adams,” “James Ward,” and “‘Pick ‘Em Up’ Caroline Raynor” all the more for virtually memorizing its contents.

How utterly hopeless it looked to him! He read over the first sentences six times without having an idea as to their meaning…

(The Hall in the Grove, pg 90)

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I learned from the very helpful, very gentlemanly guardian of these treasures that one can indeed become a member of C.L.S.C. without having to limit oneself to the current crop of books! He assured me that I could “graduate” with a future Chautauqua class by reading a specified number of ANY C.L.S.C. materials, from any year!

“We are bound in honor to undertake all manner of work which will develop the spirit of Christian love and fellowship; it is the central feature of our organization … always with a view to reaching hearts as well as intellects. Why don’t you join us?”

(Eighty-Seven, pg 188)

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Karen’s next Postcard from Chautauqua will feature The Hall of Christ and the Hall in the Grove.


If you missed previous posts about Chautauqua Institution, you can read them by clicking on the links below:

A Tour of Chautauqua: Getting There

A Tour of Chautauqua: Strolling the Grounds

A Tour of Chautauqua: Where to Stay

A Tour of Chautauqua: Lectures and Classes

A Tour of Chautauqua: Having Fun

A Tour of Chautauqua: The Teachers’ Retreat

A Tour of Chautauqua: A Healthy Body

A Tour of Chautauqua: Palestine Park

100 Years Ago at Chautauqua

 

 

 

Meet Priscilla Hunter

5 Jun

In her books Isabella Alden created many endearing and memorable characters; but perhaps one of the most beloved people who appeared in her stories was Miss Priscilla Hunter.

In fact, Isabella liked Priscilla Hunter so much, she included Priscilla in four of her books:

The Man of the House
Miss Priscilla Hunter
One Commonplace Day
People Who Haven’t Time and Can’t Afford It

If you haven’t heard of Priscilla Hunter before, here’s how Mr. Durant described her in One Commonplace Day:

Miss Priscilla Hunter [is] a maiden lady who has just come here to live. If you have not heard of her before, you will do well to make her acquaintance. I think you will find her a woman after your own heart on the temperance question, as well as on some others.

And in The Man of the House, little Beth Stone said Priscilla was:

A woman; kind of old, and not so very old, either. She’s got grey hair, and she is tall and straight, and her face looks sort of nice; not pretty, and not exactly pleasant as I know of, but the kind of face one likes.

But don’t let Priscilla’s grey hair fool you. She was a woman of high energy and focused activity. It was Priscilla Hunter who almost single-handedly raised the money needed for the church in Miss Priscilla Hunter.

And when (in People Who Haven’t Time and Can’t Afford It) pretty Mrs. Leymon asked Priscilla to help bring some hope to a poverty-stricken family, Priscilla energetically replied:

Help! Of course I will. I’ll bring my scissors and snip out things for you in odd hours. Oceans of things can be done in odd hours; and I’ve got a little bundle laid away that will do to make over for somebody; and Mrs. Jackson has an attic full of trumpery that she will never use. I’ll see that a good load of it gets sent around to the room. You’ve got a good room? It’s Mr. Hoardwell’s, isn’t it! Of course he’ll let you have it; I’ll see him if you want me to; he’s a friend of mine. I’ll slip up there between daylight and dark and see about it.

Priscilla’s scissors and snips were always at work. She was a seamstress by trade; and in People Who Haven’t Time Priscilla . . .

. . . sewed all day in her attic room on clothes for boys too young or too poor to go to the regular clothing establishments. Poor was Miss Hunter; that is, people looking on called her so. But, after all, I hardly knew of a richer person than Miss Priscilla Hunter.

But if Priscilla Hunter was poor, why would characters in Isabella’s stories describe Priscilla as rich?

First, she was extremely wise. She was adept at sizing up a situation, asking the right questions, and dispensing the truest and most needed morsel of advice at just the right time.

She gave advice to children and adults, women and men, friends and strangers; and her advice was always the right advice!

She was intuitive, too. Sometimes she could figure out what someone’s worries were just by looking at them. She noticed everything; no detail was too small to escape her notice.  In “Miss Priscilla Hunter” Priscilla observed:

It is the trifling sacrifices that pinch. [A man] can do a great thing now and then that he knows people will admire, even though he has no such selfish motive in doing it; still it helps and cheers, to know that an appreciative world looks on and says: “That was well done!”

But to go without a new dress all winter—to go to church, and to society, and occasionally to a tea-party, wearing the cashmere or alpaca that has done duty as best for two years, and do it for the sake of the church, and say nothing about it, and know that people are ignorant of the reason, and feel that they are wondering whether you are aware that your dress begins to look “rusty”—that is sacrifice.

Priscilla was also generous. What little she had she shared with others, always trusting that as long as she did the Lord’s work, God would provide whatever she needed.

But the most important reason Priscilla was rich was her unshakable faith in God. She had a way of talking about God that made clear to everyone He was her best friend and constant companion:

You will find that if this life is a warfare, we have more than a Captain—we’ve a Commander-in-chief, and we have nothing to do with the fight, other than to obey orders and keep behind the shield.

Priscilla Hunter’s unwavering faith is on full display in the book The Man of the House. And though the hero of the story, Reuben Stone, is honest and trustworthy and always tries to do right, Miss Hunter shows Reuben how much better his life can be if he will make the decision to follow Jesus.

It’s no wonder Isabella Alden liked Miss Priscilla Hunter so much. And since she created Priscilla as a “maiden lady” without family or possessions to tie her down, Isabella could move Miss Hunter from place to place, and into the lives of the very people who needed someone to remind them of God’s love and friendship.

If you’d like to read about Miss Priscilla Hunter, you can read these stories for free on this website:

Miss Priscilla Hunter

People Who Haven’t Time and Can’t Afford It

Or you can click on the book covers below to read The Man of the House and One Commonplace Day:

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Reuben and the Bound Out Boys

29 Mar

When Isabella wrote about children in her novels, she often gave them jobs.

That was true of six-year-old Daisy Bryant, who worked alongside her mother in a canning factory in the novel, Miss Dee Dunmore Bryant.

Interior of a South Carolina canning factory showing a 7-year old girl who shucks 3 pots of oysters a day. Her 6-year old brother works across from her. Also in the photo are boys aged 11 and 12 years old. (From the Library of Congress)

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And in Household Puzzles, enterprising teenager Maria Randolph decided to take in laundry to help support her family.

A 1916 photo of sisters Zelina & Florence Richards, 12 and 13 years old, doing laundry. (From the Library of Congress)

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In the world in which Isabella lived, it was very common for children to work … and it was even more common for employers to exploit child laborers.

Six-year old Henry and three-year old Hilda were beet workers on a Wisconsin farm. Henry told the photographer, “I don’t never git no rest.” (From the Library of Congress)

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Children were paid pennies for twelve-hour work days, and often worked in dangerous conditions, as Isabella knew well. In her book Ester Ried Yet Speaking, young Mark Calkins, who worked long hours at a printing house, was injured in an elevator accident at work. With no money to see a doctor, and no help from his employer, Mark was left to suffer his injuries alone until kindly Dr. Everett intervened.

Eight-year-old, Jennie Camillo, a cranberry picker near Pemberton, New Jersey. (From the Library of Congress)

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But it was the children who had no parents who often fared the worst. With no one to protect them or look out for their interests, they were sometimes “bound out” to a family to work in exchange for food and shelter.

A four-year-old cotton picker who regularly picks fifteen pounds a day, and a seven-year old who picks fifty pounds a day. Homeless, they move from farm to farm with the emigrant wagons. Notice the knees of the boy’s pants have been worn through from constant kneeling. (From the Library of Congress)

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Orphanages regularly bound out boys and girls in their care. They would send a child to live with an individual or a family; in exchange, the child received training in some craft or trade that would support them in the future.

Boys from the Baptist Orphanage working in the cotton fields near Waxahachie Texas. The boys, aged seven years and up, pick cotton for the man in the photo. (From the Library of Congress)

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Some masters were exacting, severe, even cruel, and used the children they took in as slaves. Others were fair and kindly, even though they may have been strict and insisted on good workmanship.

Meet Jack

In 1915 Jack was an eight-year-old boy who worked sunrise to sunset on a farm in Western Massachusetts. Jack’s daily work was documented by photographer Lewis Hines.

Eight-year old Jack on a Western Massachusetts farm. He is representative of many young children who were overworked in rural areas of the country. (From the Library of Congress)

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An investigator with The National Child Labor Committee (an advocacy group that organized is 1904), Lewis Hines sought to publicize the plight of working children in America. Mr. Hines traveled the country documenting the children who labored in rural and urban areas of America, and he took all the photographs used in this post.

In her book Reuben’s Hindrances, Isabella wrote about a boy who was very much like Jack. Orphaned when his mother died, Reuben went to live with a poor farming family. The Hardmans treated Reuben badly and even begrudged him the bit of food he was given to eat each day.

Eight-year old Jack moving heavy cans of milk on a stone sled. (From the Library of Congress)

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In the novel, Reuben is overworked. His duties keep him busy from sun up to sun down on the Hardman farm, and he sometimes performs backbreaking tasks.

Jack milking a cow. (From the Library of Congress)

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But all the while, Reuben dreams of going to school and building a better life. Yet every time he tries to get away from the Hardmans, his efforts are thwarted.

Eight-year old Jack driving a horse rake. A small boy, he’s clearly having difficulty keeping his seat as he travels over the rough ground, making his task much more dangerous. (From the Library of Congress)

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In desperation, Reuben turns to his mother’s Bible for comfort. The verses he reads help Reuben realize that the things he thought hindered his progress were really opportunities he failed to recognize.

Jack preparing to drive a load of hay. (From the Library of Congress)

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Soon Reuben has a new outlook on life; and with the words of his mother’s Bible to guide him, he sets out to bring some happiness to the same people who once treated him badly and did him the most harm.

You can read more about Reuben’s Hindrances here.

Would you like to see more of Lewis Hines’ photographs? Click here to visit the Library of Congress and their collection of images by Lewis Hines.

Click here to read more about The National Child Labor Committee and their advocacy work for children.

Sunday on the Street Cars

20 Mar

If you’ve read any of Isabella’s books, chances are you’ve noticed that her Christian characters refused to travel on Sundays.

Day of Rest, an engraving by Currier and Ives, 1869 (from Library of Congress)

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While others in the story may have planned a carriage ride to a pleasure garden, or a train ride to the next town to hear a famous minister preach, good Christians in Isabella’s stories didn’t go anywhere on Sunday unless they could get there on foot.

Walking to Church in Charleston, 1864.

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That was true of Ruth Burnham in Judge Burnham’s Daughters. Here’s an exchange between Ruth and her young son:

“Mamma, what makes it wicked to ride in the steam cars on Sunday?”

“My darling, don’t you remember mamma told you how the poor men who have to make the cars go cannot have any Sunday—any time to go to church, and read the Bible, and learn about God and heaven?”

“I know, mamma; but the cars go all the same, and the men have to work, and so why can’t we ride on them? They wouldn’t have to work any harder because we went along.”

A motorman on a street-car, about 1930 (from Library of Congress).

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Ruth’s son voiced an argument that wasn’t new. Isabella had heard it herself many times; but she believed in the sanctity of the day of rest, and she followed her church’s direction on the proper way to observe Sundays.

A busy street-car in 1909 (from the Library of Congress).

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When Isabella was growing up in New York, it was much easier to observe the Sabbath because there were laws on the books that enforced Sabbath rules and eliminated personal choice:

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There were similar laws in most other states. Having been raised in such an environment, Isabella’s strict observance of the Sabbath rules became second-nature to her.

A cartoon from an 1895 issue of Puck Magazine, showing New York legislators dressed as Puritans. On the left are businessmen and women in stocks and pillories with signs of their crimes: serving guests wine on Sunday, shaving on Sunday, delivering ice on Sunday, selling a glass of beer on Sunday, and blacking shoes on Sunday. A notice states “Behold the Punishment of the Wicked Sabbath Breaker. Let All Evil Doers Beware”.

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In the early days of street-cars, many cities barred cars from operating on Sundays. Here’s a record of a driver who was arrested in 1859 for violating the law:

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It wasn’t just street-cars that fell afoul of the fourth commandment. When the Postmaster General of the United States proposed delivering mail on Sunday to aid in its efficient flow, conservative Christians took swift action, circulating a petition to stop the plan:

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But by the end of the 19th century, the average American’s perception of Sunday had shifted. No more was Sunday a traditional day of rest; it had morphed into a day of liberty. After a long, six-day work week, people wanted to do something or go somewhere, and trains and street-cars made it possible.

With street-cars, pleasure gardens and museums were only a short ride away. And a day at the sea shore was possible, thanks to an intricate network of train tracks and passenger cars that whisked people away from the hot, humid city twice a day on Sunday, and returned them safe and sound to the city in the early evening.

Sunday, the Day of Rest. A cartoon in a 1918 edition of Puck magazine (from the Library of Congress).

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Cities and states soon saw the commercial benefits of allowing restaurants, theaters and other businesses to open on Sundays; and they began to quietly repeal the old Sabbath laws.

Like many Christians, Isabella viewed the changes with concern. After all, America was a country founded on Christian principles. But as more and more Sabbath observances fell by the wayside, many Christians saw the change as a symptom of a bigger issue: Christianity was losing its grip as the leading religion of the country.

A street-car in Washington DC, 1890 (from the Library of Congress).

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But Christians didn’t take the changes lying down. They organized and petitioned, wrote their congressmen, and fought for new laws and ordinances to protect the Sabbath, to no avail.

The newspapers and magazines caught wind of their efforts and labeled them Sabbatarian Fanatics.

When Christians protested plans to open the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York on a Sunday, Puck magazine spoofed their efforts with this cover illustration:

A female figure labeled “Enlightenment” pushes open the doors of the Pan-American Exposition on a Sunday, knocking out of the way an old woman labeled “Sabbatarian Fanatic” and a man labeled “Sabbatarian Bigot” who tried to prevent the opening. (from Library of Congress)

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Isabella knew all about the “fanatic” label. She probably had heard it used in regard to herself; and since she often used her own life experiences in her books, she wrote about it in Judge Burnham’s Daughters. When Ruth refused to entertain unexpected callers on a Sunday, the town gossips said:

What a pity it was that so fine a woman as Mrs. Burnham should be so completely under the control of fanatical ideas!

Even Ruth’s husband applied the word to her:

I do not quite understand how you came to be such a slave to fanaticism, Ruth; it does not seem like you. Your father had a touch of it, to be sure, but I think he must have caught it from you, since you go so far beyond him.

But Isabella—like Ruth—held fast to her fundamental belief that the Sabbath should remain holy. Despite the name-calling and the opposition around her, she held to her belief that the Lord’s Day should be spent in Divine activities that celebrated her relationship with God. And that was something Isabella knew she couldn’t accomplish on a street-car.

Street-car traffic in Washington DC in 1918 (from the Library of Congress).

 


In the early 1900s Reverend R. A. Torrey compiled the works of different conservative writers into an article titled, “Why Save the Lord’s Day?” You can click here to read the complete article.


Many thanks to Marie Peters who inspired this post! If you have a question about Isabella or a related topic you’d like to see explored on this blog, leave a comment here or on Facebook!

Something Sweet and Sticky

15 Mar

With a few exceptions, the women in Isabella’s stories spent a lot of time in the kitchen. One hundred years ago when Isabella wrote her novels, keeping house for her family was a woman’s primary concern; and preparing food filled up the majority of her waking hours.

Magazine illustration of a 1913 kitchen.

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Chrissy Holmes Hollister was a something of an exception to the rule. Although she could easily afford to hire someone to do the daily cooking, Chrissy’s mother had taught her how to properly manage a kitchen. Chrissy had also been taught to bake a decent loaf of bread and prepare a delicious meal when needed.

Cover illustration for a 1908 cook book.

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In Her Associate Members Chrissy’s husband Stuart was struggling to recover from an illness. On doctor’s orders, Chrissy and Stuart removed to a warm southern state to pass the winter; but Chrissy had a hard time finding a boarding house that was well-run and could serve palatable meals to her invalid husband.

Vacancy sign on an Alabama boarding house in 1936.

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In the boarding house they finally settled in, Chrissy found the food so distasteful, she negotiated with her landlady, Mrs. Stetson, for permission to make Stuart’s meals herself.

A model kitchen in 1921; from an issue of Ladies Home Journal magazine.

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Soon Chrissy’s trips to the chaotic and messy kitchen to prepare a cup of beef tea for her husband became opportunities for her to teach Mrs. Stetson to run her kitchen more efficiently. That’s when she discovered how much Mrs. Stetson disliked having to cook for her boarders.

“What in the name of wonder will I get for dessert?” Mrs. Stetson pronounced the word as though she were speaking of the plains of Sahara. “I wish to the land folks didn’t have to have dessert every blessed day of their lives! It hasn’t got any reason nor sense in it, to my way of thinking. Eat a good big dinner of roast beef, and two kinds of potatoes, and beans, or something, and pickles and bread and jelly, and everything they can get, and then begin all over again, with fresh plates and all, and swallow down something sweet and sticky. I’d like to know who first got up such a ridiculous fashion, anyway! But there is no use in talking; folks do it, and so I s’pose folks will keep on doing it to the end of time. But I don’t know more than the babes in the woods what to have, nor how to make it.”

Mrs. Stetson’s lament gave Chrissy an idea. Since her arrival she had been patiently waiting for an opportunity to do something nice for overworked Mrs. Stetson, and she now saw an opportunity:

“Mrs. Stetson, I have been looking at some beautiful lemons while I was at work. Do your boarders all like lemon pie, and do you care to have me make some for dessert?”

Mrs. Stetson didn’t hesitate in answering:

“Like lemon pie? I should say they did. Every last one of them looks as though he had had a fortune left him when he sees a piece coming!”

An illustration of a variety of desserts from a 1911 cookbook.

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So Chrissy set to work preparing her ingredients, while Mrs. Stetson sat back and had a much-needed rest.

Although Chrissy made it sound as if it were easy to whip up a lemon pie, dessert making was a tricky business.

Ovens in those days did not have thermostats, and cooks who followed printed recipes had to know what it meant when a recipe called for a “quick oven” instead of a “moderate oven.”

A 1917 recipe for Strawberry Shortcake with instructions to bake the cake in a “moderate” oven.

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Stove-top cooking had its challenges, too. Burners had no gauges to modulate high, low, or medium heat; cooks controlled the level of heat with the amount and type of wood they fed their stove. One too many pieces of wood on the fire or one too few, and a cook could easily scald the contents of a pot, or undercook a sauce on a burner that wasn’t hot enough.

If you’d like to get a sense of what it was like to cook and bake in Isabella’s time, visit A Hundred Years Ago, a blog that prints old recipes, then updates them for today’s cook.

Recently, A Hundred Years Ago took a 1916 dessert recipe for Baked Rice Pudding and updated it with instructions that make it easy for you to make the creamy, sweet delight today.

In previous posts, One Hundred Years Ago has also printed old recipes for making candies and fudge, then tweaked them, of course, to also print updated versions of the original recipes.

Illustrations of chocolate candies from a 1911 cookbook.

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One thing that becomes clear as you read through those old recipes is the amount of time cooks must have spent stirring, beating and whipping their ingredients together. Since they didn’t have the luxury of our modern-day mixers and blenders, it’s easy to understand why Mrs. Stetson grew to hate making desserts each day for her boarders.

But Mrs. Stetson’s life was about to change, because Chrissy soon became not only Mrs. Stetson’s new boarder, but her friend, too. And as Chrissy helped Mrs. Stetson implement simple changes in her kitchen that made her life easier, Chrissy kept watch for a chance to make over Mrs. Stetson’s heart, as well.

Getting from Here to There

8 Mar

Isabella Alden lived during the golden age of train travel, and her books reflected the time. At the turn of the last century, an intricate systems of railroad tracks and heavy, powerful locomotives connected nearby towns and far-away locations.

Train travel ad from Harper’s Monthly magazine, 1909.

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Railroads made it possible for people to easily travel to summer resorts, as Eurie, Marion, Ruth, and Flossy did in Four Girls at Chautauqua. Advertisements made distant American destinations sound exotic and adventurous.

Preparing to board, 1905 (from the Library of Congress).

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But railroad travel also made it possible for people to quickly and economically travel short distances between towns.

In Christie’s Christmas, Christie Tucker set off on a simple, twenty-mile train ride to visit her relatives for the day in a neighboring town.

The rural station at Galion, Ohio.

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Christie’s parents arranged the trip based on the arrival and departure times that were posted at the train station closest to their farm. Christie’s mother told her:

“You are to go up on the train that passes at seven in the morning, and come back on the six o’clock, and that will give you nine whole hours at your Uncle Daniel’s. I’m sure that will give you time to see a good many things.”

The arrival board at London’s North Western Railways station, 1905. The large numbers displayed on the right indicate the platform number of the arriving train.

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The trip was a thrilling adventure for a girl who lived on a farm miles from the nearest neighbor or school.

And though train travel was fairly economical, Christie’s parents had to scrimp and save to afford the fare:

“Eight-five cents there, and eighty-five cents back; that’s a dollar and seventy cents! It seems a good deal to spend; but it is your birthday, and it is Christmas day, and you’ve worked hard, and father and Karl and I think you ought to go.”

To accomplish her day trip, Christie probably traveled in a standard Pullman car, with its narrow seats that faced both front and back.

Interior of a standard Pullman car, 1910 (from the Library of Congress).

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By contrast, Miss Mary Brown (in The Browns at Mount Hermon) could afford to travel in luxury. When Mary left the mid-western village of Centerville, it took her two full days to travel by train to California. Her accommodations probably included a seat in a very nice club car during the day.

A posh car on the Chicago and Alton Railroad, 1910.

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For the overnight portion of her journey, Mary could have secured a berth in a sleeping car.

No matter how long the journey, travel by train usually took preparation. Travelers had to consult departure timetables and plan for connections between railroad lines.

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In those days, travelers had to visit their local train station to obtain printed routes and schedules. But if an in-person visit wasn’t possible, they wrote a letter to the railroad’s passenger agent to ask for help in planning their journey.

The station master wrote back with instructions, usually accompanied by printed schedules.

A printed timetable for the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad.

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An 1881 timetable for Nantasket Beach Railroad (from WikiMedia Commons)

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Once on board, train passengers were ruled by the train’s conductor. It was his job to ensure the train arrived on time at each stop, and that his passengers’ needs were taken care of.

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For the most part, train travel was incredibly efficient. The Georgia Railroad claimed their trains were so timely, residents in the city of Atlanta could set their clocks by the sound of trains going by.

It was also a relatively safe mode of travel. An in an age when few women walked a city street without a chaperone, many women felt comfortable traveling alone by train.

Women traveling alone, 1905 (from the Library of Congress).

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No matter how long the journey, train travel could be tedious; and it was up to the passengers to find ways to entertain themselves.

Passing time with a magazine and a deck of cards, 1905 (from the Library of Congress).

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With the exception of Caroline Bryant, who slept through her train ride in Twenty Minutes Late, Isabella’s characters usually accomplished their journeys by making new friends of their fellow passengers.

A game of chess on board, 1905 (from the Library of Congress)

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That’s what Christie Tucker did. When her twenty-mile train ride came to an unexpected halt because of trouble on the tracks ahead, she set out to make herself useful to her fellow passengers, and reaped unexpected rewards in the process.

Many more of Isabella’s books featured travel by train than those mentioned in this post. Do you have a favorite Pansy character who road the rails? Please use the comment section below to share your favorite.

All aboard! Passengers prepare to depart on the California Limited, part of the Santa Fe Railroad, in 1905 (from the Library of Congress).

If you’d like to learn more about train travel in Isabella’s time, visit Rails West.
Be sure to view their page on overnight accommodations, where they have some interesting illustrations of sleeping cars on trains.

 

Tableaux: Bringing Pictures to Life

28 Feb

Long before last year’s mannequin challenge went viral on social media, Isabella Alden and her contemporaries struck poses like statues. Tableaux vivant (which means, literally, “living pictures”) was a very popular form of entertainment in late 19th century America.

The premise was simple. People donned costumes and recreated famous scenes from literature, art, and historic events.

A 1903 photo of a woman posing as Margaret in Faust.

A 1903 photo of a woman posing as Margaret in Faust.

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On a small scale, people performed tableaux in parlors. They selected a famous scene from history or literature, donned make-shift costumes, and struck poses while other guests observed.

Isabella Alden was very familiar with tableaux. In Julia Ried Isabella described how guests at a party …

made very free use of the wraps in the dressing-room for our impromptu charades and tableaux, and shawls, cloaks, hoods and rubbers were in inextricable confusion.

Woman in Elizabethan costume, 1903.

Woman in Elizabethan costume, 1903.

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On a large scale, churches, women’s clubs and fraternal organizations staged more elaborate tableaux on stages with scenery and props.

There were many books available to help performers turn out their best statue-like performances.

School and Parlour Tableaux by Sarah L. Stocking gave step-by-step instructions for young performers.

From School and Parlour Tableaux by Sarah Stocking

From School and Parlour Tableaux by Sarah Stocking

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While The Book of Tableaux and Shadow Pantomimes by Sarah Annie Frost featured performances with themes more suitable for adults.

Part of the table of contents for The Book of Tableaux and Pantomimes, with detailed instructions for enacting each tableau

Part of the table of contents for The Book of Tableaux and Pantomimes, with detailed instructions for enacting each tableau

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In his book, Parlor Tableaux and Amateur Theatricals, William Gill promoted tableaux as “a simple and elegant amusement,” and “a favorite entertainment of persons with taste.” He recommended that music—vocal or instrumental—be played between representations so the audience would not grow restless and to help heighten the suspense as the audience waited for the curtain to rise on the next scene.

Isabella wrote often enough about tableaux to indicate she was very familiar with the pastime. In her novel A Dozen of Them, young Joseph participated in a simple New Year’s Eve tableau party where he …

… dressed in an extraordinary manner—like a youthful musician of the olden time. Mrs. Calland had managed—nobody but she knew how—to arrange for him a most remarkable wig of soft curling hair. The mustache part was easy; a little burnt cork settled that.

Cover_Julia RiedOn a larger scale, Julia Ried (heroine in the book of the same name) helped put together a grand tableau of several re-enactments that required weeks of preparation:

I remember an animated discussion that ensued concerning the getting up of tableaux for a certain festival, which was to be held about Christmas time. Mrs. Tyndall gave minute descriptions of the style of dress needed to personate certain characters, and I suddenly became an object of importance, because I had not only seen, but participated in one of the tableaux mentioned, and could give accurate information as to whether the young lady who personated religion should dress in white or black.

Hand-painted 1905 photo of a woman in Old Testament costume

Hand-painted 1905 photo of a woman in Old Testament costume for a religious tableau.

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Rehearsals and sewing costumes consumed Julia’s days. She helped make costumes for characters portraying Religion, Queen Vashti, Quakers, and a Turkish sultan. Some of the elaborate scenes challenged Julia, because she was convinced they weren’t suitable for Christian women to enact.

Society ladies and a gentleman perform as Bacchantes, 1909.

Society ladies and a gentleman perform as Bacchantes, 1909.

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Some of the most common themes for tableaux were religious and patriotic scenes. The scenes below, performed by a church in 1920, depict the story of Jesus’s life, from the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary through his early childhood:

bethlehem-tableau-1920-scene-1

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bethlehem-tableau-1920-scene-3

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bethlehem-tableau-1920-scene-4

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bethlehem-tableau-1920-scene-5

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bethlehem-tableau-1920-scene-12

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Tableaux featuring Greek aesthetics were also popular, because the draped costumes and classical poses were considered to be the epitome of grace and beauty.

A woman in a classic Greek pose, 1903.

A woman in a classic Greek pose, 1903.

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If you’ve ever seen The Music Man you’ll remember that the mayor’s wife was devoted to performing Greek tableaux.

Even the famous Mrs. Astor, leader of New York Society, staged an evening of tableaux for charity in 1909.

mrs-astor-1908

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Women attending Mrs. Astor's society tableau in 1908.

Women attending Mrs. Astor’s society tableau in 1908.

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National organizations also dove into the tableau craze. To publicize their organization, the Red Cross staged tableaux on the south front of the Treasury Building in Washington DC in 1917:

red-cross-demonstration-with-tableaux-on-south-front-of-treasury-building-washington-dc-1917

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red-cross-demonstration_on-guard_1917

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red-cross-demonstration_where-columbia-leads-1917.

It’s possible that Isabella participated in a few tableaux herself. She was certainly able to describe the entertainment with some affection and a good deal of detail in several of her books and stories.

A tableau for women's suffrage on the front steps of the Treasury Building in Washington DC, 1913.

A tableau for women’s suffrage on the front steps of the Treasury Building in Washington DC, 1913.

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Did you know there are still organizations practicing the art of tableaux vivant today? One such organization is the New Orleans Tableaux Vivant Society. Click here to visit their site, where you’ll find news of upcoming performances and photos of past events.

If you know of any other tableau events coming up, please share by posting a comment below.


The idea for this post was suggested by Karen, a regular reader of this blog. If you have any questions about Isabella Alden or would like to learn more about something you read in one of her books, please leave a comment below.

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