The Dangers of Soda Fountains

15 Aug

Today, a soda fountain—when you can find one—is a quaint relic of a by-gone era. Think of soda fountains and you may think of ladies wearing corsets and long skirts, or gentlemen who never leave home without a hat, tie, and pocket watch.

Soda fountains are such benign objects to us, it’s hard to imagine that they ever had the potential to cause harm. But in Isabella’s day, there were hidden dangers in every soda fountain, in every town in America.

An average American drugstore in 1900. A soda fountain is on the right side of the photo.]

Isabella Alden recognized those hidden dangers and wrote about them, because she knew the dangers were not inconsequential. There were pitifully few laws at the time that regulated the sale or distribution of products that could be bought at the time; and many products included alcohol and addictive ingredients.

Children could obtain alcoholic drinks in saloons. Doctors prescribed alcohol to patients young and old.

A pair of 1894 trade cards depicting “a big spender and his girl” at the soda fountain.

And commonly used tonics and medications often contained alcohol and opiates—sometimes at alarmingly high levels—and most did not disclose their contents on their labels.

In 1888 this cough syrup proudly listed its addictive ingredients—cannabis, morphine, alcohol, and chloroform—on its label. Since no laws required such disclosures, few manufacturers revealed their product contents.

Here’s an example: In 1885 a man named John Pemberton began marketing a beverage he invented. He called it “French Wine Cola—Ideal Nerve and Tonic Stimulant.”

In an 1880 drugstore in Washington DC, this soda fountain sold a beverage called Wine Coca for five cents a glass.

Why such a name? Because every 7 ounce glass contained 9 milligrams of cocaine and a walloping dose of caffeine extracted from the kola bean. Initially, sales were sluggish.

But the following year, when Pemberton renamed the drink “Coca-Cola,” sales picked up. By the 1890s, Coca-Cola was being sold in stores and soda fountains all over the country . . . and it still contained cocaine and caffeine. (Coca-Cola’s formula didn’t change until after 1903.)

An 1890s trade card for Coca-Cola, touting it as the “ideal brain food” for relieving mental and physical exhaustion.

That’s one example of the “hidden dangers” Isabella wrote about.

A 1905 magazine ad for Coca-Cola.

In her novel One Commonplace Day, several scenes take place in the town drug store, which Isabella describes this way:

[It was ] glittering with its show of colored glass and brilliant liquids, and arranged with that regard to lovely combinations of color which is common in first-class drug stores. There is at one end a handsome soda fountain, with all the various cooling syrups and elegant appliances of first-class establishments.

The design for a new soda dispensing unit, showing front and side views, with marble counters and inlays (circa 1900).

Charlie Lambert, one of the characters in the story, was a temperance man who took pride in the fact that he drank no liquor and had no temptation to drink any. But he often took his lunch at the soda fountain, where he drank a soda almost every day during the summer.

An 1890 newspaper ad for Coca-Cola aimed at temperance advocates, despite the drink’s ingredients.

Chances are, Charlie’s soda was laced with wine, cocaine, caffeine, or one of any number of additives that were not disclosed to unsuspecting consumers.

The soda fountain in a Peoples Drug Store, Washington D.C., 1909.

In the book Isabella advances the theory that people often become addicted to alcohol or drugs because they develop a taste for them as children.

A 1916 advertising broadside showing boys drinking a case of beer or liquor.

When you think of the number of children who sat on soda fountain stools, unconsciously swinging their dangling feet as they enjoyed a glass of Coca-Cola—all the while pumping nine milligrams of cocaine through their veins—Isabella’s theory begins to make sense.

A 1905 ad in Harpers’ magazine.

Advertising for Coca-Cola and similar beverages was everywhere. Ads showed happy, peppy, beautiful people sipping cocaine-laced drinks.

Coca-Cola calendar art, 1915.

And some soda fountains and saloons distributed tickets to people on the sidewalks, with a buy-one-drink, get-one-free offer.

By today’s standards, Isabella’s novels about temperance and the evils of alcohol may come across as strident and unreasonable. In reality, Isabella was fighting a very real problem in the best way she knew how; by writing stories people could relate to.

An iconic 1890s Coca-Cola advertisement.

And while One Commonplace Day is, on the surface, a story about the American temperance movement in the late 1880s, it carries a deeper message.

In the book, a group of prayerful Christians band together to help one of their neighbors overcome his addiction to alcohol. They formulate a plan to intercede in his life and help put him on the path to sobriety.

A crowded Coca-Cola soda fountain in 1910.

They pray for him, invite him to church, intercept him before he can enter a saloon or drug store, and do everything they can to help him kick his addiction.

Much has changed since Isabella wrote One Commonplace Day in 1886, but Americans still struggle with issues of alcoholism and addiction.

What do you think? In today’s world, is it possible for a group of prayerful Christians—like the people Isabella wrote about in One Commonplace Day—to band together to change the life of one person who struggles with addiction?


Coca-Cola wasn’t the only tonic that promised health benefits from questionable ingredients. You can read more about quack cures and patent medicines on these sites:

The Museum of Quackery.

Pilgrim Hall Museum.

And you can click here to learn more about Isabella’s novel, One Commonplace Day.

A New Free Read: Choker and Old Stuffy

7 Aug

This short story, set in a big city during the dead of winter, first appeared in the 1875 book Dr. Deane’s Way. Isabella and her best friend Faye Huntington (whose real name was Theodosia Toll Foster) contributed several stories each to the book.

In Isabella’s story “Choker and Old Stuffy,” Tom Benton and Dick Graves are struggling medical students. They’re so poor they have to take turns wrapping up in a ragged old comforter just to stay warm during the cold winter months! But a chance invitation from an unexpected source will soon change their lives forever.

You can read this story on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or you can read it as a PDF document on your computer screen. You can also print the story to share with friends.

Click on the book cover to choose your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.

 

What About Croquet?

1 Aug

It’s the time of year when millions of Americans enjoy the out-of-doors. In Isabella’s novels, her characters spent summer days walking, hiking, and playing sports of all kinds.

A favorite pastime for Isabella’s characters was the game of croquet, and she may very well have played the game herself.

A romantic scene captured on the 1866 cover of a pamphlet on the rules of croquet.

Beginning in her early twenties, Isabella made several trips over the years to the Castille Sanitarium in New York, where she was treated for health concerns. The owner of the sanitarium encouraged all her patients to play croquet, and it’s possible Isabella followed the doctor’s orders.

Whether she played the game herself or not, she certainly appreciated the game. In her books, characters young and old played croquet, as did the rich and poor. No matter what their circumstances, croquet brought her characters together.

Children Playing Croquet – Little Playmates

In Cunning Workmen, Sunday-school teacher Mr. Hammond attends a young people’s party where he notices that Peter, one of his young charges, isn’t participating in any of the games.

“What about croquet?” he presently asked. “Miss Blake seems to be enjoying the game, and the boys are very patient in their teaching. Why haven’t you joined them?”

Peter’s honest face grew red and troubled.

“I don’t quite know about them,” he said, earnestly. “I was waiting for you to come so I could speak to you about it. Them red and yellow balls look nice, and I’m most sure I could strike them through those little wires, if that’s what they’re after; but …”

“Well?” his teacher said, in kindly inquiry.

“Why, they look so exactly like them billiard things that they play with down at the saloon. Tom Randolph took me in one day. He plays there a good deal, and if them things are wrong, why ain’t these?”

“But it isn’t the red and yellow balls that are at fault, you know. It is the associations. Billiard playing is generally done for money, and croquet is simply for pleasure and exercise. Isn’t there a difference?”

“Yes,” said Peter, slowly and thoughtfully, “there’s a difference. I see that.”

Leave it to Isabella to find a way to teach a lesson through a simple game of croquet!

Playing croquet in Cape May, New Jersey, 1875.

She also used the game to show readers the motivations and mindset of her characters. That was the case with the Reverend Mr. Tresevant in The King’s Daughter, when he decided to play croquet rather than attend a temperance meeting.

Later, in Wise and Otherwise, the next book in the series, Mr. Tresevant makes a fateful decision. When a little neighborhood boy is extremely ill and lay dying in his bed, the entire town, including Dr. Douglass, went in search of the Reverend Mr. Tresevant.

Dr. Douglass’ wife later asked if he ever found the minister:

“Did you tell him about Freddy, and how much they wanted to see him?”

“I did,” relaxing into gloom and laconic answers.

“What did he say?” Mrs. Douglass was entirely accustomed to cross-questioning her husband, and understood the process thoroughly.

“That he would go down there as soon as the game of croquet was concluded.”

The lady opposite him set down her cup that had nearly reached her lips and looked at her husband, while an expression of mingled doubt and dismay spread over her face.

“Dr. Douglass! Did you tell him the child was dying, and that they had been in search of him?” she asked in shocked tones.

“I explained the latter fact to him elaborately, and told him the boy was very sick, and that I feared he might not live until morning.”

For once the ever ready tongue opposite seemed to have not a word to utter. When she found voice again, it was to ask, in a very subdued way, “Do they know it at the house—know that you have found him, I mean? What do they think of it?”

“They know that I found him—and where—for they asked me both questions. I did not enlighten them as to his occupation, and said what I hoped and believed was true, that I thought he would be along very soon; but he had not arrived when I came away, a quarter of an hour ago. The game must have proved a complicated one.”

Now, the question is, was Mr. Tresevant’s heart so bound up in the game of croquet that he could not even leave it to answer a summons from the dying?

A tense moment in a game of croquet, 1918.

In the novel, Isabella does go on to explain the reasons Mr. Tresevant would not leave his croquet game to pray with the family of a dying child; and in doing so, she tells us much about the state of Mr. Tresevant’s heart and soul.

Students play croquet at girls school in Pennsylvania, 1901.

In all, Isabella mentioned the game of croquet in at least nine novels. Sometimes she used the game to introduce topics of right and wrong Christian behavior, as in the discussion above from Cunning Workmen.

Other times she simply used it as a way for her characters to enjoy each other’s company on a bright summer afternoon.

How about you? Have you ever played croquet? What do you like most about the game?


You can find out more about Isabella Alden’s stay at the Castille Sanitarium in New York. Click here to read the post.

And you can find out more about Isabella’s books mentioned in this post by clicking on any of these book covers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isabella’s Critic, Friend, and Helper

28 Jul

Isabella had a special bond with her father, Isaac Macdonald. She might even have been what we would call in today’s world a “daddy’s girl.” But the truth was that her father was undoubtedly the single most influential person in her life when she was growing up.

In his younger years Isaac Macdonald earned his living as a farmer, but with a wife and six children to support, he left farming and established a box-making business in Gloversville, New York.

Many years later, after Isabella became a best-selling author, a Gloversville newspaper wrote a brief article about her early years in that town. The writer of the article briefly mentioned her father:

Isaac was a box maker, and if his boxes are any index to his character, he was staunch and worthy. He lies in our pleasant cemetery, but there are boxes still in use made by his faithful hands.

It’s a brief paragraph, but with its use of the words character, worthy, and faithful, we get a glimpse of Isaac Macdonald’s reputation among his neighbors and friends.

In the many stories and anecdotes Isabella shared about her father, she paints a picture of a loving man of immense faith.

In his home circle, he ably fulfilled his role as provider, protector, leader and teacher. He was eternally patient with his children and grandchildren; and he instilled in them an unbreakable faith in God and His Word.

Most of all, Isaac valued honesty, a fact Isabella illustrated in a story that took place when she was an adult and her young niece Minie was staying at the family home.

Isabella’s sister Julia teasingly told little Minie that she was going to serve butterflies and caterpillars for tea, which greatly shocked and upset the little girl. Julia, however, thought Minie’s reaction was funny; she told the story to the family later that day “with many descriptions of Minie’s shocked tones and looks, and much laughter.”

Only Isaac looked grave. When the laughter was over he said to Julia:

“How many years do you suppose it will be before Minie will discover that you haven’t told her the truth?”

“The truth!” said Julia, in surprise. “Why, of course it wasn’t truth. It was only in fun, you know. Whoever supposed that the absurd little monkey would believe it?” and she laughed again at the thought.

“But, you see, she did believe it,” Isaac said. “She believed it because you told it to her. She has great faith in your word, you see. I would be very careful not to give that faith a shock if I were you.”

“Why, dear me!” Julia said, with puzzled face; “I never thought about its being anything serious. Don’t you think it is right to say anything in fun to a child?”

“I don’t think it is right to say anything but the truth to anyone,” Isaac said, emphatically; “least of all to a child.”

Isabella never forgot the lesson.

Isaac’s teachings with Isabella extended beyond those that would shape her character. In an interview with The Ladies Home Journal, Isabella said that it was her father who taught her to write at an early age.

He was the first to encourage her to keep a diary; and he also taught her to take notes during their minister’s sermons on Sunday morning. Together they would review her notes, and he encouraged her to use her own imagination to expand on them and weave stories from the lessons and bits of wisdom she had recorded.

That early discipline soon bore fruit. When she was about seven or eight years old Isabella wrote a story about the family clock (read more about her story here).

Her story was published in the local newspaper (coincidentally, the newspaper was owned by her sister Mary’s husband and little Minie’s father). Isaac insisted that the story be published under a pseudonym, saying:

“We don’t wish anyone to know that you wrote it, and so we will sign it, Pansy, for pansy means tender and pleasant thoughts, and you have given me some thoughts that are tender and pleasant.”

This incident, too, offers a glimpse into Isaac Macdonald’s character, and his desire to protect his daughter from public scrutiny and the hazards of fame.

Thereafter, Isabella was often writing or telling a story. Her books Four Girls at Chautauqua and Ester Ried made “Pansy” a household name around the world. It was while she was writing Ester Ried that her father became ill.

Isabella mentioned that when she was young, she always hoped she would never have to tend to anyone who was sick; she thought it would be “so dreadful to look at anybody knowing that he was soon to die.”

But she found it made a difference who the sick person was, and how he felt about death himself. Her father, she knew, wasn’t afraid of dying. He used to say to her:

“It is nice to have my children all about me, and it seems sad sometimes that I must go and leave them—sad for them, I mean. But what a blessed thing it will be when we all get up there where none of us will have to go away any more. It will be vacation there all the time, won’t it?”

When her father fell ill in the summer of 1870, Isabella spent as much time with him as she could, and often read to him from his Bible. She described it as a large-print Bible, all full of leaves turned down and verses marked.

She said there was no need to ask which verse was his favorite; he had left “marks of his love” all through the book.

One afternoon when Isabella was with him, she read verses here and there as her eye caught his different markings:

“And they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads.

“And there shall be no night there.”

“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with Songs, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.”

And there was this verse:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine.”

She knew that verse was among the dearest to her father in the entire Bible. (Read the story behind the verse here.)

During that summer of Isaac Macdonald’s illness, Isabella was writing Ester Ried.

An early cover for Ester Ried

Her father, as always, was interested in her writing progress; but he showed particular interest in the story of Ester Ried. He told Isabella that “he prayed that it might be a blessing to some young life.” Sadly, he passed away on July 26, 1870, before Isabella finished writing the novel.

Isabella later wrote:

“It was while the tears were gathering thick in my eyes as I looked out upon his grave that I wrote the last chapter of the book, feeling that my closest, strongest friend and critic, and wisest helper had gone from me.”

Isaac Macdonald’s grave marker.

Isaac Macdonald’s prayer for Ester Ried was answered over and over again. Ester Ried was a great success and proved to be a blessing to generations of girls and young women who read it.

Isabella’s love for her father was evidenced in the books she wrote. She used him as the model for many of her male characters who were wise in judgment and strong in faith.

You’ll catch glimpses of him in Dr. Deane in Wanted and in Dr. Everett in Workers Together; an Endless Chain.

You can read more about the special bond between Isabella and her father Isaac Macdonald in these posts:

Isabella’s Early Writings

A Teachable Moment

Julia’s Occupation

A Woman’s Voice

A New Brother

For Day-School Teachers

18 Jul

As a teacher of young children for over forty years, Isabella Alden knew the power and influence teachers had over the hearts and minds of their students.

Here’s a story Isabella told about that very topic, in a column she wrote for The Christian Endeavor World magazine in 1901:

There is a teacher of my acquaintance, a cultivated young woman, who would be shocked and offended if she knew that I did not like to invite her familiarly to my home lest my little daughter should learn objectionable speech from her.

In the schoolroom, I am told, she guards her speech with care, and is thoroughly alive to the indiscretions of her pupils. But she frequents a home where two of her scholars live, being the intimate friend of their grown-up sister. Here she indulges in “Goodness!” and “My gracious!” on occasion, speaks of her pupils as “the kids,” and talks about “swell” neighborhoods and people, or mentions certain persons whose peculiarities of speech or manner make her “tired,” and in various other ways offends against good taste and true refinement.

And the young people in that home, who admire their pretty and vivacious teacher, are steadily copying not her school-room elegance, but her offhand vulgarities. Is that too strong a word?

Keeping in mind the fact that words like “swell” and “kids” were considered ill-bred slang in Isabella’s time, how would you answer her question?

Do you think the young teacher should not have used vulgar words?

Do you think Isabella was being too critical of the young teacher for using such words in front of her impressionable students?

Do you think, in general, teachers should be careful of their conduct inside as well as outside the classroom?

Tom Randolph’s Vision

11 Jul

Isabella’s novel The Randolphs is set in New York City. The book follows the fortunes of the Randolph siblings, all young adults who are each trying to find happiness and their places in the world.

In the story, Tom Randolph—after facing some early trouble in his own life because of alcohol—is a devoted “temperance man.”

In a conversation with his brother-in-law, Mr. Harper, Tom mentions how hard it is for young men to stay away from alcohol because of “how many places in this city it can be found.”

“Only think of the fact that, however much you might desire it, you could not find a hotel to stop at, throughout the length and breadth of this whole city, where liquor is not sold.”

“Is that actually so?” Mr. Harper said, in astonishment.

“It is really so; and not only that, but the large boarding-houses, where most of the working men who are without homes of their own have to gather, have side tables where they retail beer and whiskey. Temptation is spread on every hand, not only for those who want it fearfully by reason of an already formed taste, but for those who, because of no better place in which to spend their leisure time, are compelled to look on until they too follow the general example.”

“And your remedy is?” Mr. Harper asked, inquiringly; and there was a respectful tone in his voice. He was learning something from his young brother-in-law.

“Why, if I had the purse, I would have a temperance hotel.”

Tom’s idea of opening a hotel that didn’t serve alcohol wasn’t a new one. Temperance hotels were very popular in Great Britain and Europe, but they were almost unheard of in America.

In 1867 the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) began operating an alcohol-free hotel for young men in Chicago. Besides lodgings, the Chicago YMCA offered a parlor and a library for members’ use.

The lounge in a YMCA Chicago branch location, about 1923.

Unfortunately, the Chicago YMCA burned down only a year after it opened. Though a new building was constructed in its place, it was built without any sleeping rooms.

In 1869—the same year Isabella wrote The Randolphs—a new YMCA opened in New York City with great fanfare. It housed art studios, a large library, and a lecture hall that could seat 1,500 people.

Artist’s rendering of the lecture room in the New York YMCA. From Harper’s Weekly magazine, 1869.

Members of the New York Y could use the services of a nearby gymnasium; and they could take advantage of a steady schedule of activities designed to offer young men wholesome entertainment. But, again, the New York YMCA was built without sleeping rooms.

The library at the New York YMCA. From Harper’s Weekly magazine, 1869.

Isabella would have been aware of the YMCA and the great growth the organization had enjoyed in the U.S.A. Newspapers across the country regularly printed articles about the Y, and the programs it offer young men that promoted a healthy spirit, mind, and body.

The billiard room in the Hoboken, New Jersey YMCA in 1918.

Most YMCAs had extensive libraries, billiard rooms, and well-appointed cafeterias.

Cafeteria in the Omaha, Nebraska YMCA, 1916.

They were places where young men could socialize and have fun, make friends and learn new skills, all in a “vice-free” environment.

YMCAs often reached out to young men, encouraging them to join and take advantage of the Y’s programs. This is a postcard the YMCA in Cleveland Ohio used in 1910:

On the reverse side is a message of invitation to a young man to join one of the Y’s health classes:

Isabella knew, however, that despite all the wonderful activities and programs the YMCA offered, the Y’s influence over young men ceased the moment they left left the premises. Some young men went home to good families; but far too many went to hotels or boarding houses where liquor was served. That’s one reason she liked the idea of temperance hotels.

A fitness class at the Cleveland, Ohio YMCA in 1910.

In the late 1880s—the same time period when Isabella wrote The Randolphs—the YMCA began putting up a few new buildings that included residence arrangements.

Some of the accommodations were similar to small hotel-like rooms with bathrooms down the hall. Others had dormitories with rows of beds in a single, large room.

A corner of a dormitory style room in the Troy, New York YMCA, 1907.

The YMCA advertised their lodgings as safe and affordable. They were serviceable places to sleep, but they were far from first-class accommodations.

In The Randolphs, Tom Randolph thought it was possible to create a better Christian-based hotel.

Tom envisioned a temperance hotel that had . . .

“. . . carpets, and mirrors, and sofas, and brilliant gaslights, and the glitter of silver, and everything else that is used to entice and entrap. I would have such a place as would offer not a shadow of excuse to any living man for not stopping at the Temperance House, except the one honest reason that he wanted to go where there was rum.”

As Tom said in the story, the best way to fight Satan was with “his own weapons—if they do really belong to him.” If Satan used bright gaslights and glittering glassware to tempt men to drink in saloons, Tom would use the same to entice men into his temperance hotel.

Bible study at a Utah YMCA in 1906.

He thought a nice hotel that offered first-class rooms and excellent service was the very thing needed to interest young men; and if the sleeping rooms were affordably priced, there would be no excuse for men to stay at any other hotel unless they specifically wanted to be able to drink alcohol on the premises.

The lobby of the YMCA in Amsterdam, New York, 1910.

Tom was to have his wish. In the novel, Tom was able to secure the financial backing he needed to buy an old New York City hotel and remodel it. Tom’s adventures in opening and operating the hotel soon include other members of his family, and their involvement helps drive the rest of the story.

An invitation to attend the opening of new rooms at the Carbondale, Pennsylvania YMCA.

Isabella was something of a visionary when she wrote The Randolphs. She foresaw the need for temperance hotels, just as she foresaw the welcome such establishments would receive from communities.

From The Asbury Park Press (New Jersey), April 9, 1906.

By the turn of the century the idea of first-class temperance hotels began to catch on in America. Some communities, like the seaside resort town of Asbury Park, New Jersey, openly invited temperance hotels to open in their town.

From The Daily Notes, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, December 22, 1906.

The YMCA recognized the need, too. The organization had always offered first-class entertainment for its members, but in the 1900s they began upgrading their residence accommodations. Newer YMCAs had residential rooms that were more spacious and home-like (although they still couldn’t be described as “luxurious”).

This 1908 trade card from the Brooklyn New York YMCA pictured a home-like single room.

In 1912 the Boston YMCA began construction on their flagship location in Boston.

The Boston YMCA, 1915.

The building was so large, it covered almost an entire city block on Huntington Avenue. It offered men extensive classes on a range of subjects, including engineering and science. Its health education and body-building programs were the first in the nation. And its residential floors provided plenty of dormitory style sleeping accommodations for young men.

When Tom Randolph opened his temperance hotel in The Randolphs, he named the place Randolph House. Before he opened the doors for business, he ensured Randolph House was consecrated with prayer.

And he did one other thing: he remodeled the old ballroom that was part of the previous hotel. He did the work himself and kept the work secret, until he showed his sister Helen what he had done.

“What is all this for?” she asked, gazing up and down the room with satisfied eyes. The beauty and the refinement displayed here actually rested her, she was such a lover of beautiful things, especially of things that meant wealth and cultured taste and leisure to enjoy.  

Then Tom unveiled the sign he intended to hang at the entrance to the remodeled ballroom:

Young Men’s Christian Association Rooms.

Only then did he reveal his plan to start a branch of the YMCA at Randolph House, where young Christian men could pray, and socialize, and study their Bibles together.

In The Randolphs Isabella gave us a glimpse into her own dreams and ideals of what a first-class Christian temperance hotel might look like . . . and what it could accomplish in the lives of young men.

You can find out more about Isabella’s novel The Randolphs by click on the book cover.

 

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The Story of the Revolution

4 Jul

A New Free Read!

3 Jul

As the editor and principal contributor to The Pansy magazine, Isabella had many opportunities to reach children and teens with a message of Christ’s love.

Stories, poems and novels were her vehicles for teaching young readers about salvation, forgiveness, and honesty. Isabella especially used the magazine to show children what it meant to walk with Jesus in their everyday lives.

Today’s story—from an 1895 issue of The Pansy—teaches young readers about the impact one act of kindness can have on a young girl.

Choose the way you want to read the story:


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Angela’s Temptation

It was a very warm morning, and the basement kitchen in which Angela had been at work, was dark and hot. Her work was by no means done; the floor must be scrubbed, and everything in and about the kitchen put into perfect order, and the dishes were not all washed. Yet Angela stood in the middle of the room, her cheeks very red, and a look almost of despair in her beautiful Italian eyes, as she gazed at the fragments of a handsome cut-glass pitcher which lay at her feet. That pitcher she knew was very much prized by Miss Ethel, Mrs. Parker’s only daughter; and whatever Miss Ethel liked was doubly dear to her mother’s heart. It was only this morning that Angela had received a caution to handle it carefully, and here it lay in a dozen pieces!

She could not have told how it happened. She had remembered the caution given her, and had rinsed and dried the pitcher with the utmost care, and was climbing to the top shelf to set it away. At that moment a gust of wind had blown one of the closet doors against her elbow, and so startled her that she almost lost her balance, and then the pitcher somehow had escaped from her grasp.

Poor Angela! Perhaps you cannot think how bitter was her temptation. As quickly as thought can travel, she was back in her Italian home, leaning against one of the tall pillars of Madame Carara’s workroom, watching the kettle which hung over the fire, and polishing •the elegant fruit plates, and doing more dreaming than anything else. It was very warm, she remembered, and she was bare-footed, and wore nothing but her loose blouse and skirt; and had the sleeves pushed up above her elbow, and sat thinking, what if she were the mistress of this beautiful home, instead of the little kitchen girl whose duty it was to wait on all the other servants, and do anything that they did not like to do? If she were the mistress, she would wear, she thought, a white silk dress trimmed with diamonds and lace, and would order her gondola to be made ready, and would float about on the lovely green and gold and purple water, just as long as she pleased; for dinner she would have—and then she had jumped up quickly, hearing Rosa’s call, and had forgotten that she had a plate on her lap, and it had smashed itself!

Angela believed that she would never forget that morning. There had been no chance to hide the mischief; if there had been, she would not have told of it for the world; but Rosa was upon her even before she could gather up the tell-tale pieces; then, oh, how Angela had been scolded! Yes, and whipped! The Italian lady with whom she lived was not above raising her own strong arm to punish Angela. Her poor head and ears and neck had tingled and ached all day from the blows which they received. But worse than that, Angela was not allowed to go to the great fete which was held for two days, and to which she was to go that afternoon. Instead, she spent the long bright afternoon shut up in her room, weeping bitterly.

That was a year ago; but every detail of the day was as vivid to her mind this July morning as though she had just lived through it. Many things had happened since. She had crossed the great ocean, and come to America to live, and was a Sunday-school scholar, and a Junior Christian Endeavor member—A large girl for that society, older than the most; but they had made room for her and been good and kind, and Angela loved them.

But what hard fate followed her that her troubles must come so near to holidays? Tomorrow would be the fourth of July, the American fete day, as Angela called it; and tomorrow afternoon they, the Juniors, were to go on the cars out to the Superintendent’s lovely home, and have games on the lawn, and tea in the summer house, and ice cream and fireworks in the evening! And she was to go with the rest. Mrs. Parker had planned a new white dress for her, with pink ribbons to match her eyes, Miss Ethel said, though surely her eyes were not pink! In the way of all this beauty lay a mountain, in the shape of a broken pitcher.

Do you begin to understand Angela’s temptation? To be sure there was no Rosa to spy out her trouble. Cook was away for the day, and Mrs. Parker and Miss Ethel would not be downstairs until nearly lunch time. Nothing would be easier than to hide out of sight forever the broken pieces, and let Mrs. Parker suppose the pitcher safe on the top shelf where it was usually kept. If only Miss Ethel had not wanted to send cream in it this morning to that sick girl, it would be there now! Couldn’t she say nothing about it until after the Fourth-of-July fete? Only until then; after that she would be willing to tell the whole story, and take the hardest whipping any girl could receive.

She walked the floor and cried, and wrung her hands in her intense Italian fashion, but she did not resolve to carry out this plan. What was in the way? Why, as I told you, she was a Junior Endeavorer, Despite the fact that she had been only a year in this country, and spoke our language in a broken fashion which made some of the girls laugh, and found everything about her very new and strange, she had taken to her heart the pledge of the Juniors, and meant to keep it if she could. Moreover, the very night she was received as an active member, she walked home behind some of the large girls and heard their talk. There had been an Italian boy received at the same time, into the older society. One of the girls in speaking of it said, “I think he ought to have waited until he understood things better. Those Italians are not trustworthy people; father says it is all but impossible for them to tell the truth.”

Then Miss Ethel had said, “Oh, I don’t think so! I feel almost certain that our Angela is truthful, and would be, even though she were tempted.”

Angela’s face had glowed, in the darkness, with joy and pride over those words. This July morning she thought of them, and they finally settled for her the question of concealment. It was a dreadful trial; it was to her like giving up everything, for the time being, but she would do it.

A very red-cheeked, swollen-eyed girl knocked presently at Mrs. Parker’s door and was invited in. The kitchen work was all neatly done now, and Angela had taken up her heavy cross and gone upstairs. With eyes downcast and lips that quivered, she told her woeful tale. Silence for a minute, then Mrs. Parker said:

“Very well, Angela; I am sorry, of course; but I am glad you came directly to me with it, instead of leaving me to find it out for myself, as some might have done. Next time you will be more careful and close the door, so that the wind cannot cause you trouble. If you have finished in the kitchen, you may take these letters to the post-box, and stop at the corner and order some berries for luncheon.”

Could she believe her ears? She was not to be whipped, nor scolded, nor shut up in her room, nor given just a crust of bread to eat! None of these things. Instead, she went out on her errands, and returned, and was treated quite as usual.

Never was a happier heart than Angela’s. It was actually pleasant to do right; one felt so glad over it. Yes, she could give up the fete, even, and be glad that she had told. Had not Mrs. Parker commended her?

In the evening, as she was going upstairs, Mrs. Parker said something about the basket she would need the next day for flowers. Angela stopped and turned, her great eyes looking larger than usual.

“Ma’am,” she said, “for flowers?”

“Why, yes, child, don’t you remember that you are each invited to bring a little basket for flowers, and roots that you can plant?”

“Oh, but, ma’am, I am not to go! Surely I am not to go!”

Mrs. Parker looked bewildered. “Why not?” she asked. “I thought you wanted of all things to go.”

“Oh, yes, ma’am, yes, indeed! But you forget the pitcher.”

“The idea!” said Ethel, before her mother could speak. “Did you suppose we would keep you away from the lawn party because you had an accident and broke a dish?”

“Mother,” said Ethel the next day, as they watched Angela making an eager dash down the street, arrayed in her white dress with pink ribbons, “the child must have had a very hard life before she came to this country. Fancy being whipped and fed on crusts and water, and not allowed to go anywhere, because she broke a plate! I wonder if all Italians are cruel?”

“The Italians do not know Christ,” said Mrs. Parker. “It is acquaintance with Him which makes people patient, and forgiving, and long suffering.”

“But all people who are not Christians are not unreasonable and cruel!”

“Oh, no; no, indeed! Some are very kind-hearted. But have you never wondered how much their surroundings and education in a Christian land, and the influence of Christian fathers and grandfathers had to do with their kind heartedness? In other words, we have Jesus Christ to thank for much that is not directly recognized as his work.”


Have a happy 4th of July celebration!

Off to Chautauqua!

27 Jun

The 2018 summer season at Chautauqua Institution opened on Saturday, June 23. Over the next ten weeks, travelers will be planning trips to the great summer assembly, either by car (using a GPS app on their phone for guidance), by air (landing at nearby Chautauqua County Airport at Jamestown), or train (Amtrack tickets can be purchased online or via a smart phone app).

Four ladies from Minnesota, ready to travel! (1920)

Travel to Chautauqua has changed a lot in the 142 years since Isabella Alden wrote Four Girls at Chautauqua. Back in 1876, the only way her lead characters in the story—Eurie, Ruth, Marion, and Flossy—could get to Chautauqua was by train. And preparing for their trip wasn’t as easy as tapping an icon on a smart phone.

Four young women walk to the train station in 1901

The first decision the ladies had to make was how much luggage to take. Practical Marion began the conversation:

“Ruth, are you going to take a trunk?”

Ruth roused herself from the contemplation of her brown gloves to say with a little start, “How you girls do rush things. Why, I haven’t decided yet that I am going.”

“Oh, you’ll go,” Marion Wilbur said. “The question is, are we to take trunks—or, rather, are you to? Because I know I shall not. I’m going to wear my black suit. Put it on on Tuesday morning—or Monday is it that we start?—and wear it until we return. I may take it off, to be sure, while I sleep, but even that is uncertain, as we may not get a place to sleep in; but for once in my life I am not going to be bored with baggage.”

“I shall take mine,” Ruth Erskine said with determination. “I don’t intend to be bored by being without baggage. It is horrid, I think, to go away with only one dress, and feel obliged to wear it whether it is suited to the weather or not, or whatever happens to it.”

An 1870 trade card for a dealer in trunks and valises.

The truth of the matter was that Marion—who barely supported herself on a teacher’s salary—didn’t own enough clothes to fill a travel trunk.

Besides, paying an expressman to deliver her trunk to the station, tipping baggage porters, and checking her trunk through to Chautauqua, was far beyond the cost of what Marion could afford.

A porter tends to a woman’s luggage and dog. (From a 1907 Tuck’s postcard)

As the eldest child of a hard-working doctor, Eurie Mitchell’s travel budget wasn’t much larger than Marion’s.

Ladies preparing to travel in 1915. (From the Indiana History Album)

Ruth Erskine and Flossy Shipley, on the other hand, were wealthy enough to insist on first-class accommodations in all her journeys. In all likelihood, they would have taken more than one trunk, each, as well as other pieces of luggage. Here’s why:

Luggage was much different in 1876 than the pull-suitcases and travel totes we use today.

Excerpt from an article in a 1906 issue of the Minneapolis Journal, illustrating the various types of trunks and cases needed to transport a lady traveler’s belongings.

For starters, different trunks or cases were made to accommodate different types of clothing and belongings.

For example, the average skirt of a woman’s dress in 1876 was made from about 8 to 10 (or more) yards of fabric. Underneath, women wore petticoats made up of an equal amount of material. These skirts, dresses, and undergarments took up a lot of room, and were usually packed in a dress trunk.

Dress trunks were made long and deep so skirts, petticoats, and dresses could be stored flat.

Shirtwaists, jackets, and suits went into a wardrobe trunk, where they could hang properly and minimize creasing and folds.

Wardrobe trunks, like this 1917 model, accommodated hanging garments like jackets and short coats. This particular wardrobe trunk would cost $701.16 in today’s money.

Hats and bonnets were transported in boxes designed to protect their shape and prevent damage to ornaments.

A standard hat box design for 1917. Adjusting for inflation, this hat box would cost $116.95 today.

Lotions and toiletries went into yet another case, fitted out with compartments for bottles and toothbrushes, and powders.

A trade card for a maker of trunks and valises, from about 1910.

Items a traveler might need to keep handy, such as clean handkerchiefs, fresh collars or cuffs, and possibly, a change of shirt waist, were carried in a valise or grip.

Trunks were sturdily built and meant to last a lifetime, despite rough treatment and wear and tear.

Some ladies also used tourist Cases to pack things to carry on the train and keep with them. Tourist cases looked very much like the small suitcases that were in use in the 1950s and 60s. The young women pictured in the photo below all have tourist cases (and one very large trunk!).

College students prepare to return home, about 1909.

For a lady traveling in the late 18th and early 19th century, traveling was not a casual business. It took planning, if she wanted to arrive at her destination looking fresh and effortlessly gowned.

Most hotels had carriages to transport guests and their small pieces of luggage to and from the train station. This 1890 photograph shows such a carriage, as well as a wagon convey trunks and heavy baggage, for a hotel in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

In 1904 The San Francisco Call newspaper published a full-page article on how to properly pack a trunk. The article was filled with plenty of practical, and not-so-practical, advice:

Making a trunk look nice is a distinct art.

A lady’s skirt should never have a front fold.

The author of the article was a professional packer of trunks. She tells the story of a phone call she received from a client:

“I want you to pack my trunks,” said she, “so I can catch the midnight train.”

“How many trunks are there?” I asked.

“There are twenty-seven,” said she, “and several boxes and suit cases, and the wagon is to call for them at five o’clock.”

Twenty-seven trunks! By comparison, Marion, Eurie, Ruth, and Flossy traveled light when they set off for Chautauqua!

You can read the full-page article “How to Pack a Trunk” by clicking here.

You can read all about the 2018 Chautauqua Institution summer program and events. Just click here.

And you can read previous posts about going to Chautauqua; just click on one of the links below:

A Tour of Chautauqua – Getting There

A Tour of Chautauqua – Where to Stay

A Tour of Chautauqua: Having Fun

A Tour of Chautauqua: Lectures and Classes

A Tour of Chautauqua: Palestine Park

A Tour of Chautauqua: A Healthy Body

A Tour of Chautauqua: The Teachers’ Retreat

 

We Heard You … and A New Free Read!

13 Jun

A few months ago, Mary (a reader of this blog) asked us to figure out a way to make Isabella’s Free Reads available so they could be read on her Kindle. Up until that point, we were publishing Isabella’s Free Reads only as Adobe PDF files.

A Good Idea

Mary’s suggestion made sense. After all, we’re living in the digital age; and since the goal of this website is to make it as easy as possible for readers to discover and enjoy Isabella’s books, we said:

“Challenge accepted!”

Four months later, we think we’ve come up with a solution.

Beginning today you’ll be able to download new Free Reads to your Nook, Kindle, iPad, or smart phone directly from BookFunnel!

And for those readers who like to view Isabella’s stories on their computer or print out a copy to share, you’ll still have the option to download an Adobe PDF file from BookFunnel, by choosing the “My Computer” option.

Ready to give BookFunnel a test drive?

Let’s kick things off with a story Isabella specifically wrote for children.

A New Free Read

Isabella delighted in teaching children important lessons from the Bible. Every issue of The Pansy, a bi-weekly magazine she edited and wrote for, included two or three children’s stories she wrote to convey Biblical truths in an entertaining way.

In 1889 her twelve-part story “Helen the Historian” appeared as a series in The Pansy. The story showcases Isabella’s skill in telling a Bible story as a child would tell it.

Here’s a short description of the the story:

Helen may be only eight years old, but she knows all about God’s love. She’s happiest on Sunday mornings when her young friends gather about her and listen to the Bible stories she tells. And maybe—if she tells the stories well enough—those Bible stories will make a difference in lives of her young friends, too.

Now you can read “Helen the Historian” for free!

Just click on the cover to be directed to BookFunnel, where you can download the story in the format of  your choice.

Happy reading!

An Important Privacy Note:

Depending on the format you choose when you download your copy of “Helen the Historian” from BookFunnel, you may be asked to enter your e-mail address.

You will enter your e-mail address strictly for the purpose of receiving your copy of the e-book. Neither BookFunnel nor IsabellaAlden.com will store, collect, or share your e-mail address at any time. If you would like to know more about our Privacy Policy and how it affects you, please click on the “Privacy Policy” tab in the menu bar at the top of this page.

 

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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