A Perfect Partnership: Isabella and Daniel Lothrop

13 Nov

In additional to writing novels, Isabella Alden wrote articles and short stories for many different publications.

Her stories and articles were so popular she found herself in a unique position for a writer: She never had to submit her work for publication.

Instead, publishers went to her. Elias Riggs Monfort, the long-time editor of The Herald and Presbyter (a weekly Presbyterian newspaper), gave her a lifetime contract to publish any serials she wrote.

Elias Riggs Monfort, about 1870 (Wikipedia).

Mr. Montfort was such a fan of Isabella’s, he wrote to his friend, Daniel Lothrop, full of praises about Isabella and her stories.

Daniel Lothrop was the owner of D. Lothrop & Company, a Boston publishing house that specialized in books for young people.

Daniel Lothrop.

Daniel Lothrop had been a great reader from his childhood; while he was still a boy himself he developed an ambition to publish books specifically written for children—a novel idea at the time. Even more radical: he believed the books should be beautifully illustrated to serve the story and keep children’s attention.

An undated artist’s rendering of the D. Lothrop and Co. Publishing building in Boston, Massachusetts.

But he persisted, believing that it was possible to publish children’s books that were not only entertaining, but encouraged “true, steadfast growth in right living.”

The interior of D. Lothrop and Company.

He often said to the people in his employ: “I publish books to do good as well as to make money. I always ask first, ‘Will this book help the young people?’ rather than ‘How much money is there in it?’”

His long partnership with Isabella began around 1874. After Elias Monfort sang Isabella’s praises to him, Daniel Lothrop invited Isabella to contribute stories to be published in a small weekly Sunday School newspaper he published.

Little One’s Friend, one of D. Lothrop and Company’s beautifully illustrated books for children.

By 1877 that short weekly paper had grown considerably in size and content—and Isabella was its editor!

Called The Pansy, each issue was filled with inspiring stories, delightful illustrations, short poems, and descriptions of exotic and far-away places to spark children’s imaginations.

Isabella wrote a short story for each issue, and other members of her family did, too, including her husband, her sister Marcia, niece Grace Livingston, and later, once he was old enough, her son Raymond.

Another frequent contributor was Daniel Lothrop’s wife Harriett, who wrote under the pen name “Margaret Sidney.”

Author Harriet Stone Lothrop, who wrote under the name “Margaret Sidney.”

Isabella wrote that Mr. Lothrop always had “a very warm place in his great warm heart” for The Pansy magazine.

Not only was he fertile in suggestions calculated to make it better, but he was ready always to heartily second the suggestions of others, and to aid in carrying them out.

The Pansy Society in particular was very dear to him. He was interested in everything about the Society, from the content of the letters children wrote to the magazine, to the design of the badges that Isabella sent to Pansy Society members. Isabella said:

“It would be difficult—impossible, indeed—to tell you in how many ways he helped along the cause of truth and right in the world.”

Another common interest Isabella and Lothrop shared was the Christian Endeavor Society. From the early days of the Society, Daniel Lothrop saw an opportunity to use his publishing company to further the Society’s message. He recruited authors to write books of interest to Christian Endeavor members. Margaret Sidney, Faye Huntington, and Grace Livingston were among those who answered the call.

An 1897 newspaper ad showing new Lothrop books by the company’s prized authors.

Isabella’s novels, Chrissy’s Endeavor and Her Associate Members were written and published especially for C.E. members.


Isabella’s long partnership with Daniel Lothrop lasted almost twenty years. It ended when he passed away in 1892.

Isabella was heartbroken. In her memoirs she wrote:

“Mr. Lothrop was my true, strong, faithful friend all his life.”

She gently told readers in an issue of The Pansy about the passing of “our friend who loved us, and worked for us and with us.”

It’s impossible to know how many lives were influenced for good by Isabella’s partnership with Daniel Lothrop. Her books alone sold more than 100,000 copies a year, and The Pansy magazine had thousands of subscribers all around the world.

They had formed a perfect partnership. Both Isabella and Daniel Lothrop must have been proud of their accomplishments and the knowledge that they always produced books and stories that were consistently wholesome, pure, and elevating.

You can learn more about The Pansy magazine, The Christian Endeavor Society, and The Pansy Society by reading these previous posts:

The Pansy Magazine

The Christian Endeavor Society

The Pansy Society

Isabella Goes West!

6 Nov

This is Part 2 of a story about Isabella’s farewell to Chautauqua in the Autumn of 1901. You can read Part 1 by clicking here.

When Isabella’s friend Frances Hawley wrote about the Aldens packing up their Chautauqua cottage, she ended her account by saying that the Aldens left for “a prolonged stay in the west.”

For Isabella and her family, “the west” meant California.

Their decision to make the journey had been in the works for some time. By autumn of 1901 the Aldens—Isabella, Ross, and their daughter Frances—were living in Philadelphia, and some key events had taken place in their lives:

  • Isabella’s husband Ross had retired from the ministry.
  • Isabella’s son Raymond had completed his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, and had already moved to Palo Alto, California
  • Isabella was beginning to feel the passage of time. She was about to turn 60 years old, and Ross was already 69.

Of her advancing age Isabella wrote:

I am really growing old very fast now, you know. It seems to me that I have changed a great deal lately. I cannot do anything as quickly as I once could and I tire very easily.

Their decision to retire to California was probably based on a number of things, the most important of which was that they had always been a tight-knit family; and with the exception of one or two short periods of time, they had always lived together as a family, too.

Since Raymond had already moved west, he might have written to them about California’s clean air and warm temperatures. And maybe he had written about the Presbyterian church he was attending and the welcome he received there. By November 1901 he was already teaching a Bible class at church.

From the Palo Alto Press, November 27, 1901.

A Cross-Country Trip

Whatever their reason for make a change, Isabella and Ross finished packing up their belongings at Chautauqua and immediately set out for California to join Raymond.

From the New York Daily Tribune, December 33, 1903.

The first leg of their journey was probably from New York to Chicago. If they took one of the many “express” or “limited” trains, they would have made the journey in about 24 hours. From there, they would have taken a train to California.

From the New York Tribune, December 8, 1903.

A “limited” train, like the one in the ad below, would have taken a direct route from Chicago to San Francisco, and would have made as few stops as possible, bypassing many of the towns on the route.

New York Tribune, April 24, 1902.

On a “limited” train, their journey across the country would have taken about 66 hours, or almost three days. By contrast, travel on a regular train, making all the stops along the way, would have doubled their travel time.

This 1895 map from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company shows the dizzying number of stops a regular train would have made en route from Chicago to San Francisco. Click on the map to see a larger version.

By Christmas 1901 the Aldens were in southern California, staying with their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Johnson.

Isabella’s fame followed her there. A local newspaper, The Los Angeles Herald, caught wind of her visit and arranged to interview her.

In addition to asking Isabella the usual questions (e.g. “How did you get the name Pansy?”) the article listed all Isabella’s work, and noted that in addition to writing novels, Isabella was still:

  • Editor of the Herald and Presbyter
  • Associate editor of Christian Endeavor World
  • Wrote stories every month for The Sunbeam (the Y.W.C.A. Gazette published in London)
  • Wrote for the Junior Christian Endeavor World
  • Composed Sunday-school lessons for the Presbyterian church’s “intermediate quarterly”

It’s no wonder Isabella was beginning to feel tired!

The article ended with news that Isabella was going to do a reading the following week from “an unpublished story,” titled David Ransom’s Watch (which was eventually published in 1905).

The interviewer must have asked Isabella what her plans were for the future, because the article ended with this prophetic sentence: “It is probable that the Aldens will make California their home.”

The Aldens continued their stay with the Johnsons through at least the end of January of 1902. Their visit was reported in the Los Angeles Times society page:

From The Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1902.

A New Life in Palo Alto

Sometime in early 1902 the Aldens left Los Angeles and returned to Palo Alto, and they settled into their new life in the Palo Alto community.

They joined the same Presbyterian congregation that had welcomed their son Raymond. By April, Isabella was in San Francisco where she delivered a speech on one of her passions: Mission work at home and abroad.

Around that time the Aldens also began a search for a home large enough to accommodate their entire family and expected houseguests. In the end, they decided to build a custom home that would satisfy their many and unique needs. They purchased property in Palo Alto, hired an architect, and began designing their dream home.

A few years later Isabella and Ross joined other Christians in attending the Mount Hermon Christian Camp when it opened in 1905.

The rustic Mount Hermon train station, about 1910.

Mount Hermon was the first Christian camp west of the Mississippi, and it must have reminded Isabella and Ross of Chautauqua’s early days. Isabella fell in love with the place. She wrote:

I wish I could give you a picture of Mount Hermon, a blessed place where I have spent precious weeks living out under the great redwood trees. It was wild and quaint and beautiful. I have many happy memories connected with it.

For the next few years they made annual trips to Mount Hermon until health concerns prevented them from traveling there.

From Daily Palo Alto Times, 1907.

Through all these new experiences Isabella kept busy writing books. Between 1901 and 1908 she published eight books, most of which were written with her adult readers in mind:

Mag and Margaret: A Story for Girls (1901)
Mara (1902)
Unto the End (1902)
Doris Farrand’s Vocation (1904)
David Ransom’s Watch (1905)
Ester Ried’s Namesake (1906)
Ruth Erskine’s Son (1907)
The Browns at Mt. Hermon (1908)

Isabella Returns to Chautauqua

Isabella also found time to return to Chautauqua on probably two occasions, where she stayed with friends or relatives who had cottages there.

In May 1912 Isabella and Ross traveled to New York, where they first visited her dear friend Theodosia Toll Foster (who co-wrote a number of books with Isabella under the nom de plume Faye Huntington). It is very possible the Aldens went from there to Chautauqua in June when the 1912 season commenced.

from the Rome New York) Daily Sentinel, May 14, 1912.

In 1914 the Aldens were again at Chautauqua, where Isabella and her niece, Grace Livingston Hill were among the authors honored at a C.L.S.C. reception.

By August of that year they were back home in California, where they were “welcomed by many of their friends.”

The Palo Altan, August 21, 1914.

It’s possible Isabella visited Chautauqua again in the years following, but no record of those visits survives.

Whether Isabella visited Chautauqua again or not, her friends at Chautauqua and in New York certainly kept track of her as a favorite daughter. In 1916 the newspaper in Rome, New York (located near the town in which Isabella was born and raised) covered Isabella and Ross’s golden wedding anniversary celebration with this article:

The Rome Daily Sentinel, June 6, 1916.

The article’s mention of their prominent place in Palo Alto society is a testament to the loving friendships the Aldens formed in their new home in California.

You can read more about Isabella’s dream home in Palo Alto by clicking here.

You can read more about Isabella’s adopted daughter Frances by clicking here.

Pansy’s Farewell to Chautauqua

30 Oct

October 1901 marked a milestone in Isabella’s life.

For decades she and her husband Ross and other members of their family had been deeply involved with Chautauqua Institution. Isabella strongly believed in its core principles, and she immersed herself in furthering Chautauqua’s mission.

Isabella, Ross, Raymond, and family on the steps of their Chautauqua cottage (1875).

Every summer for decades she taught classes at Chautauqua, and encouraged friends and acquaintances to attend the summer session. She helped extend Chautauqua’s outreach by quietly encouraging people she met in all walks of life to embrace the CLSC and its educational offerings.

And more than any other ambassador, she inspired an entire generation of readers to experience the place for themselves after reading about it in Isabella’s many novels about Chautauqua.

During the course of their marriage Isabella and Ross lived in many places; his occupation as a minister often required them to move from one church to another. But almost without fail their summers took them back to Chautauqua. For Isabella, who was born and raised in New York, her annual trips to Chautauqua must have felt very much like a homecoming.

Over the years Isabella and Ross rented different cottages on Chautauqua’s grounds. Many of them have since been demolished and replaced by newer buildings.

One of the last cottages they occupied was at 20 Forest Avenue, bounded to the north by the shore of Lake Chautauqua and to the east by normal Hall.

Excerpt from a map of Chautauqua with the Alden’s corner lot on Forest Avenue marked in red. Click on the map to see a larger version.

The house was built in 1890 and still stands today dressed in sunny yellow with white trim.

The house at 20 Forest Avenue, Chautauqua as it appears today (from Google Maps 2012).

Isabella and her family spent a few summers in that cottage, including the summer of 1901. And when the Chautauqua season ended in early September they, like all the other summer residents, made their way to the railroad depot and returned to their “regular” home.

Few people know, however, that just a few weeks later Isabella and Ross quietly returned to Chautauqua to pack up their belongings and leave Chautauqua for the last time.

How different Chautauqua must have seemed to them in October; and how quiet it must have been, with its closed cottages, empty meeting halls, and deserted dining rooms!

The empty park in front of the Administration building in January 1902.

Frances Hawley knew what Chautauqua was like off season. She was a year-round Chautauqua resident and Isabella’s friend. She was on hand when Isabella and Ross, along with their little daughter Francis, arrived at Chautauqua to pack up their possessions.

The Aldens intended to stay with Frances only a day or two, but their stay soon lengthened into a week, for there was much to do. Frances wrote:

They were very busy packing books and sorting papers and manuscripts. [Ross] would come in at night utterly weary, but with a big basketful to be looked over during the evening. They were obliged to stop and eat, and were tired enough at meal time to be glad of a little rest; and so three times a day our food was spiced with anecdotes and stories, wise and pithy sayings, and with the jokes that had been perpetrated upon old Chautauquans by the inimitable Frank Beard.

Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to be in that room and hear those stories about Frank Beard and his practical jokes?

Frank Beard giving an impromptu Chalk Talk to a group of young Chautauquans.

Frances said this about her friend Isabella:

The bright and sparkling style that has made Mrs. Alden’s books so attractive is hers outside of book covers, and her sweet and winning ways won all the hearts of the household.

Frances also described the moment when she realized the Alden’s visit was quickly coming to an end:

When at the close of their visit we parted with them and realize that it might be long before we could again have her kindly sympathy or feel the warm pressure of his hand and see the merry twinkle of his eye, the delight that the pleasure of this visit had given us was tinged with sadness and we were loath to let them go.

It’s sad to think that when Isabella and her family left Chautauqua that October day, they did so knowing they might never again see the place they had loved so much for so many years.

Their departure marked the end of an era for Chautauqua Institution. But Isabella and Ross were ready to move on to the next chapter of their life together.

Next week: Isabella Goes West!

Let’s Make Beautiful Music

23 Oct

Many of Isabella’s characters played musical instruments, the most common of which was the piano.

Sadie Ried was a talented pianist in Ester Ried, as was Dell Bronson in The King’s Daughter.

Dell’s beloved piano was located “in the little summer parlor,” and she often turned to “her dear piano” for company.

She touched the keys with a sort of tremulous eagerness, and soft, sweet plaintive sounds filled the room.

But a piano was an expensive luxury the majority of Americans could ill afford, despite ads like this one that invited buyers to purchase a piano (or organ) on credit.

For those who could not afford to have a piano in their home, there were plenty of other musical instruments to be had.

“Leisure Hours” by Hugo Breul.

Many ladies strummed guitars (Louise Morgan played one in A New Graft on the Family Tree), and some even learned to play banjo.

But one of the most popular musical instruments during Isabella’s lifetime was the autoharp.

Autoharps were extremely affordable—some styles were priced as low at $5.00.

Even better, they were easily portable. They went from home to school, from church to social functions—anywhere musical accompaniment was needed.

Autoharps were relatively easy to learn to play, and thanks to some astute publishing houses, sheet music for the autoharp—from hymns to operas to college songs—was plentiful and affordable.

An 1896 newspaper ad for the Dolge Autoharp.

By 1899 manufacturers began advertising the autoharp as “America’s favorite instrument.”

Brothers making music on a banjolele and an autoharp (about 1910).

Autoharps remained popular for decades into the twentieth century. School teachers across the country used autoharps to introduce children to the basic principles of music and singing. And their distinctive sound became a mainstay in early country music recordings.

Autoharp for educators booklet, featuring an image of country artist Maybelle Carter on the cover.

Have you ever heard an autoharp played before? Have you ever played one yourself? Tell us about it!

New Free Read: Sadie’s Journey

16 Oct

Some of Isabella’s stories contain obvious themes or lessons she wanted to impart to readers.

The lesson in this month’s Pansy story is much more subtle. “Sadie’s Journey” first appeared in The Pansy magazine in 1893, and probably inspired many mothers to have earnest conversations with their children about the dangers of the outside world.

An added bonus: The story included a charming wood-cut illustration of Sadie, which you’ll see below at the end of Part I.

Part I

“It is so very warm,” said Aunt Sarah, stopping in her work of buttoning Sadie’s skirt to wipe the perspiration from her face. “Cannot Sadie have just this short-sleeved apron on, instead of a dress?”

“Why, it is very short, dear,” said Sadie’s mamma. “Think how she would look if anybody but ourselves saw her.”

“Nobody will,” returned Aunt Sarah. “It is too warm for people to come out here this afternoon, and she will stay this side of the gate, won’t you, Sadie?”

Sadie promptly promised, and the little muslin slip which now did duty as an apron was fastened to hide her pretty neck from the sun, leaving her arms bare; then she set her little old sun-hat on the back of her head, and proceeded to coaxing Aunt Louise to go out with her after “f’owers.”

“Louise is Sadie’s slave,” the other aunties said, laughing, as Sadie led her off in triumph; but they every one knew that they were slaves in the same way. Aunt Louise wandered on and on, beguiled by Sadie’s wishes. Several times she proposed going back to the house to wait until the sun dropped lower, but Sadie always wanted to go “just a weenie teeny bit further.” At last Aunt Louise said, with decision in her voice, “Now, pet, I really must go back. I cannot endure this heat any longer; I’m sure I wish I were only five, if it would give me as much energy as you have. You may stay out here by yourself, and pick all the ‘f’owers’ you want, only you won’t go out of the gate, will you? Remember you are not dressed to see people.”

“I’ll ’member,” said Sadie, and in a few minutes she was alone in the great lovely glen. No prettier spot within miles and miles could be found than the McMartins had chosen for their summer home. The house, a wide, old-fashioned rambling affair, although it was set on a hill, was almost hidden from view by great old trees; and before and behind it, and on either side, stretched the beautiful hills, and valleys, and trees, and flowers, and vines, and grasses, and all lovely things. People envied the McMartins this beautiful old-fashioned home. “So quiet,” they said, “and beautiful; it is like being in the depths of the country, yet they are only an hour’s ride from town.”

Left to herself, Sadie roved from flower to flower, going deeper into the glen every moment, until suddenly she turned and followed a winding path which she knew led in a round-about fashion to the lower gate. She had heard the sound of a hand-organ in the distance. The road from town was too hilly to tempt hand-organs in that direction very often, and Sadie felt that she could not afford to lose the treat. She thought of going for Aunt Louise to keep her company, but decided that she was too far from the house for that; the hand-organ might move on before she could get to it. She made all the speed she could over the winding path, and presently reached the lower gate, only to see the “music man” disappearing around the corner.

“He must be going to play for the Benhams,” said Sadie to herself. The Benhams were the McMartins’ nearest neighbors. They lived in the large house where the roads forked, about a quarter of a mile away. Sadie paused at the gate. She “’membered” her promise, but it was really going to be very hard to keep it. She peeped through the bars of the gate, and argued it out with herself.

“The reason Auntie did not want me to go outside the gate was because I wasn’t dressed to see people, but she wouldn’t mind a music man; music men never care how folks are dressed, and there isn’t a single anybody else to be seen on the road. I wouldn’t go all the way to the Benhams, ’course not! I’ll keep away back where folks can’t see me at all, and only listen to the music. That won’t be not keeping my pwomise, ’cause if peoples don’t see me they won’t care.”

Having reached this conclusion Sadie stood on tiptoe to unfasten the gate, and slipping through it walked briskly along the road toward the “music man.” He had seated himself by the side of the road to rest, and also to have a talk with a friend who appeared just then and sat down beside him. As Sadie neared the two she kept going slower, and wondering why the “music man” did not play his music. What if he should play a time just for her? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to have happen?

But it did not happen. The two men had started on together before Sadie reached them, and they turned down a lane before they reached the Benhams’ grounds. So much the better; she could hear the music without seeing any people, for Sadie felt sure that no neighbors lived down this lane. On and on she trudged until her little feet were tired, and until she did not know where she was. The lane had led into a meadow, which the two men had crossed, she following; then from the meadow they slipped through a break in the fence, Sadie following, and crossed a long, sunny field, then struck into a wood which was cool and inviting, but there was no music. At last they stopped to rest again, and Sadie came very close to them, then stopped with a long-drawn sigh. If she only dared to ask the man to make some music just for her.

Some movement which the little feet made just then among the rustling twigs startled the men; they turned quickly and stared at her, then at each other.

“Halloo!” said the music man. “What is all this?”

“More than I know,” said the other. “She ain’t a spirit, is she, from t’other world?” Then they laughed in a way which half-frightened Sadie; she could not have told why, for she was not easily frightened.

“Halloo!” said the man again. “Where did you come from, little Miss?” Sadie had been brought up to answer questions politely, so she explained matters as well as she could.

“Here’s a lark,” said the music man; “she must belong to that big house on the hill.” And while Sadie looked up into the sky to see the “lark” the two men put their heads close together and talked low. Presently the man who had no music said to her, “Look here, young one, do you know your way home?”

“Not quite,” said Sadie timidly; for not finding the lark, she had looked about her and discovered that she was in a strange world, and did not know which way to turn.

“I should think not,” he said. “You’re a long ways from home, an awful long ways, and a dangerous ways. There’s bears in these woods, and snakes, and I don’t know what all. You needn’t be scared, though; if you’ll keep close to me, and don’t make no noise, I’ll see that you get home safe and sound.”

* * * *

In the wide old-fashioned hall of the McMartin home Aunt Louise fanned herself and told how warm it was out of doors, and how wonderful it was that little Sadie did not seem to feel it. Presently she roused from a ten minutes’ nap to say, “I wonder if I ought not to go for Sadie? She won’t wander beyond the grounds, will she?”

“Oh, no!” answered mamma and Aunt Sarah in the same breath. “She promised she wouldn’t go outside the gates.”

“Besides, the child isn’t dressed, you know,” added Aunt Annie. “She would know better than to go on the street in that rig.”

Ten, twenty minutes passed, a half-hour, an hour. Then mamma said, “I wonder at Sadie for staying out alone all this time. She is generally too fond of company for that.”

Then up rose Aunt Louise. “I am going in search of her,” she said. “Why, it is after five o’clock; I did not think it was so late.”

Up and down the winding paths she wandered, calling “Sadie,” “Baby,” “Pet,” all the sweet names which belonged to the child, and receiving no reply. Then came mamma and joined in the search, then the other aunties, and finally Uncle Wells himself; but no Sadie was to be found.

Picking f’owers.


Part II

Young Dr. Tremayne swung himself on to the train as it halted at Riverton. The hot day was over, and the air was quite chill. The doctor shivered a little as he took his seat, and told himself that a light overcoat would not be unpleasant. Then he wondered if he would find orders at his office which would take him out for the night, and decided to get a little nap while the train was running into the city. But he didn’t get it. Instead, he sat up straight and looked at a curious couple who were but two seats in front of him.

The man was a young fellow, hardly old enough to be called a man, and perhaps too ugly and shabby-looking to deserve that name; but on the seat beside him, sitting bolt upright and looking about her with half-frightened, half-defiant eyes, was a mouse of a girl, not dressed for the chilly evening; not dressed at all as one would expect a child to be who was in such company. She had on a little white slip, and a white sun hat. Her bare arms looked cold and uncomfortable, and her entire face expressed misery if ever a child’s did. The fellow tried to draw her toward him, and the child resisted. She was crying quietly, and once when the man bent over her and tried to say something, she shook herself, and said, “Let me be.” Then Dr. Tremayne, who had meantime quietly slipped into the next seat, heard him say distinctly:

“Look a-here, little Missy, if you behave yourself and do as I tell you, you won’t come to no harm; but if you make a fuss and get me into trouble, I’ll wallop you within an inch of your life, and you’ll be sorry for it as long as you live. Do you understand that?”

Whether she understood all the words or not, she was evidently frightened. She drew farther away from him, and shuddered, and choked back her sobs.

Dr. Tremayne leaned forward and touched the fellow’s arm. “Who have you there, my man?” he asked, nodding his head toward the child.

“It’s my sister’s girl,” he said quickly. “I found her out in the country; ran away from home, you see, and I’m taking her back.”

The little girl listened intently; she turned her head around so she could see the doctor’s face, then she spoke with eager haste:

“It isn’t true; I just went out of the lower gate to hear the music man, and I didn’t know just which road to go home; and he said he would take me home, and he isn’t. I don’t live on the cars.”

The man nodded his head in response to this story. “She followed a hand-organ, you see,” he said, “and got lost. Now she thinks she knows the way home better than I do; and she doesn’t want to get there, any way, ’cause she knows she will get whipped for running away.”

“I shan’t!” said the child, in a passion of grief and rage. “My mamma doesn’t whip me, and I didn’t run away. I just went down the road where nobody need see me, because I wasn’t dressed up, and you tooked me the wrong way. If I had only kept my pwomise!” With this the little girl’s heart utterly failed her, and she cried aloud.

“Shut up!” said the man sharply. “You needn’t bellow and get all the folks looking at you, just because you have been a bad girl, and run away, Your folks will tend to you when I get you home.”

“Do you live in town?” asked Dr. Tremayne, and a few minutes afterward he went to the rear end of the car and motioned the conductor to him. “There is something wrong up there, I fear,” he said, nodding toward the place where the man and child sat. “The fellow says she is his sister’s child, but I don’t believe it. It is hardly possible for a child with such a face to belong to a man of that stamp. The little one is evidently afraid of him; she says she went out of the gate to hear the ‘music man,’ and did not know the way back, and this man promised to take her home, and didn’t do it.”

“Is that so?” said the conductor. “There was a report of a child lost brought into the station just above Riverton. The country was in an uproar, the man said, but they seemed to think she was lost in the woods. She belonged to the people who have taken the old Singleton place. Do you know the spot?”

“Perfectly,” said Dr. Tremayne. “I believe this is the lost child, and the fellow has made off with her in the hope of securing a large reward.”

All right,” said the conductor; “pity to have him disappointed. We’ll help him to secure his reward, if that proves to be the case. Keep an eye on him, and if he undertakes to leave the train at the next station we’ll stop him; meantime I’ll send a message to Policeman Burns to be on hand when we get in town.”

Dr. Tremayne went back and seated himself behind the rough-looking man, who now began to watch him suspiciously.

“What is your name, my little girl?” he asked.

“Sadie,” said the child promptly.

“And whose little girl are you?”

“Mamma’s and papa’s, only now papa is away across the ocean, and I’m Uncle Wells’ little girl until he gets back. Oh, and I’m Aunt Sarah’s little girl, too, and Aunt Louise’s most of all, ’cause she’s the best auntie.”

“And do you live in the big city?”

“When the snow comes I do,” said Sadie; “but I live away out in the country now, where the glen is, you know, and the wiver. Don’t you know where our house is?” she asked, with a sudden pleading sound in her voice, “and couldn’t you take me home ’stead of this man, ’cause I like you best?”

The man laughed a coarse, hateful-sounding laugh. “I call that cool,” he said. “She’s the greatest young one to go on that you ever heard of; plays she’s Queen Victoria sometimes, you know, and she lives in all sorts of places, according to her notion. Here we are, young one,” he added, as the train whistled for the station. “Now you’ll know pretty soon what your mother thinks of your notions.”

“I thought you said she lived in the city?” said Dr. Tremayne. “This is Brierwood, two miles out.”

“I know, but we branch off here and wait for the accommodation that goes in at the other depot. Come on, quick! The train won’t wait for you more than a week.”

“No,” said Sadie firmly, resisting his attempts to pull her from the seat. “I don’t want to go with you; that isn’t the way home; I didn’t go on the cars to the music man’s. It is just through the woods; you don’t know the way, and you are a bad, naughty man. Won’t you take me home?”

This last sentence was spoken to Dr. Tremayne, who had risen and bent over the child, putting a protecting arm about her.

“You would better not wait for the accommodation tonight,” he said to the man, who was angrily pulling at Sadie’s dress. “It will not be along in more than an hour; you might better take an across-town omnibus than to keep a child waiting in this dress at the station. The evening is chilly.”

And at that moment the train, which had barely halted, sped on.

“There!” said the man, throwing himself back in his seat in great ill-humor. “Now we can’t get off. If I don’t make you pay for this night’s work I’ll know the reason.” This with a threatening shake of his head to Sadie; then to the doctor he said: “Seems to me you meddle with my business a good deal more than is necessary. Let the young one alone.”

“Oh, I’m keeping her warm,” said the doctor, as he wrapped his arms about her, Sadie clinging with all her strength. “The night is very chilly after such a warm day. Little people always take to me.”

“It’s precious little attention I ever pay to them,” said the man sullenly; “but I thought my sister would be howling if I didn’t bring this little plague back; and I’ve gone miles out of my way to do it.”

As the train steamed into the city depot he sprang to his feet again and reached out his arms for Sadie, who had dropped her head on Dr. Tremayne’s shoulder, and was lying perfectly still.

“Come along now,” he said, “and be quick about it.” But he felt at that moment a tap on his shoulder, and turned to meet the keen eyes of Policeman Burns, who had been for some seconds standing on the platform of the rear car, listening to the conductor’s story.

“Halloo, Jack!” he said to the man, who cowed before him. “I didn’t expect to meet you here. When did you adopt a sister? Just come with me, and I’ll give you a bed tonight.”

“Now, Doctor,” said the conductor, as they watched the ill-looking man go off with Policeman Burns, “you have a baby on your hands if she doesn’t prove to be the right one.”

“I’ll take my chances,” said the doctor, smiling, “and I thank you heartily for your help. Let me see, when is the next train for the Glen due? Shall I have time to get some sort of wrap for this little one?”

* * * *

It was Aunt Louise who was leaning over the garden fence two hours later when Dr. Tremayne came with swift strides down the road, Sadie carefully wrapped in a great woolly shawl sleeping peacefully in his arms. All the family, and all the neighbors for miles around, were scouring the country in search of the lost darling. As for Aunt Louise, she haunted the garden, though certainly there could be no hope of finding the child there; but it was there she had last been seen, and it seemed to the half-crazed auntie that if she hovered about the spot where she left the child, she would be more likely to see her again. What she said as Dr. Tremayne halted before her with his burden; how he told his story in few words; how she snatched the sleeping baby from him, almost smothering it with kisses, though Sadie clung sleepily to the doctor, and murmured: “I don’t want to;” how they sent the news far and wide, and had the doctor in the house to tell the wonderful and frightful and blessed story in detail; how they sat up until nearly morning listening, and talking, and crying, and laughing, and rejoicing, you must imagine, as there is not room to tell.

One queer question of Sadie’s you ought to hear. It was several weeks after it all happened. The family were gathered in the large, cheery parlor, and Dr. Tremayne, who had some way come to think of himself as one of the family, sat near Aunt Louise talking eagerly.

Suddenly Sadie turned from the young cousins with whom she was visiting, and ran over to her favorite auntie with her question.

“Aunt Louise, Willie says he guesses you are glad I got lost and stoled. You aren’t, are you?”

A perfect chorus of laughter greeted her, in the midst of which Sadie, wondering, begged for her answer; and Aunt Louise, hiding her blushing face with the child’s curls, said:

“I am glad you were found and brought back, darling.”

What did you think of “Sadie’s Journey”? Do you think Isabella was using the story to convey a specific lesson? Or do you think she wrote it simply to entertain children (and their mothers and aunts)?

The Older Brother … Illustrated!

9 Oct

Have you read Isabella’s novel, The Older Brother?

It’s the story of a young man named Lawrence Hammond. Just before his father died, Lawrence promised he would always care for his mother and younger brother and sister, just as his father did before him.

“My dear children,” it began.

But Lawrence had a dream. More than anything, he wanted a college education, but in the days following his father’s death, he put that dream on hold because his family needed him.

As time passed, Lawrence’s skill and hard work began pay off. The family farm began to prosper and it finally looked as though Lawrence’s dream of going to college just might become a reality.

Just then, though, the family’s needs called for another sacrifice.

Suddenly, Lawrence was forced to ask himself a difficult question:

Did he have the strength to once again postpone his own heart’s desire for the sake of the people he loves?

“How would you like to change places with me, Port?” He had tried to make his voice sound careless.

The Older Brother is a touching story of faith and family duty. An 1898 version of the novel is available on Amazon and other e-book retailers.

But we recently found an earlier version of the book, which included the lovely illustrations shared here.

“Engaged!” exclaimed Mamie. “How delightful! Now we shall have a wedding.”

The artist was George T. Tobin, who often worked in pencil and ink in his younger years.

His wonderful illustrations capture the essence of some of the key scenes in Isabella’s novel.

Have you read The Older Brother? What did you think of the story?

Did you think Lawrence was right to sacrifice his own aspirations for his family?

You can click on the Amazon stamp below to learn more about The Older Brother by Isabella Alden.

Pansy and the Orphans

2 Oct

As the wife of a Presbyterian minister, Isabella moved houses fairly regularly, depending on when and where the church assigned her husband.

In the early 1890s Isabella, Ross, and their son Raymond were living in Washington D.C., where Ross was assistant pastor at Eastern Presbyterian Church.

Church listing in an 1892 issue of the Washington, D.C. Evening Star newspaper

While living in Washington D.C., Isabella became involved with the Washington Hospital for Foundlings, which, at the time, had been in operation for about five years.

The Washington Hospital for Foundlings

Knowing how much Isabella loved children, it’s not surprising she would work diligently on behalf of the foundling hospital; but Isabella didn’t stop there. She went one step further and got her “Blossoms” involved, too.

The foundling hospital playroom in 1905

“Blossoms” was the name Isabella called the children who subscribed to The Pansy Magazine, a weekly magazine Isabella edited for children. Children from around the world subscribed to the magazine, and when Isabella mentioned in an issue of the magazine that the foundling hospital was in need of funds, her little Blossoms went into action.

An illustration from The Pansy magazine, 1885.

For a period of about four years, children from around the world sent contributions to the hospital.

Their individual contributions were as large as a 25 cent-piece and as small as a 2-cent postage stamp. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but over time their total contributions amounted to $440.88.

That’s the equivalent of $13,783.00 in today’s money!

In return, Isabella wrote regular descriptions of her visits to the foundling hospital, which were published in the magazine. You can click on the following image to read one of Isabella’s accounts.

Click on this image to read one of Isabella’s reports from 1892.

When you stop to think how hard a child had to work to earn so much as a penny in the late 1800s, the children’s total contribution is astonishing; but they were such devoted readers of Isabella’s magazine, they never failed to answer her call for help.

Interestingly, around this time, Isabella and Ross adopted a baby girl, whom they named Frances. From Federal Census records we know Frances was born in Washington D.C. around 1892, the same time period in which Isabella was regularly involved with the foundling hospital. It’s possible Isabella came across Frances during the course of one of her visits and fell in love with the infant Frances to such a degree she decided to take her home.

You can read more about Frances’ life in a previous post by clicking here.

And you can read a 1906 newspaper article about the Washington Hospital for Foundlings by clicking on the image below:

From The Washington Post, Sunday, April 22, 1906.


New Free Read: The Systematic Givers

25 Sep

Isabella Alden never bought into the excuse, “But I’m only one person. What difference can one person make?”

Her answer to that question was always, “Plenty!”

How do we know? Because one of the most common themes in Isabella’s stories is the difference a single person can make in the lives of other people.

Flossy Shipley, one of the Chautauqua Girls, was a prime example.

So was Nettie Beldon in Only Ten Cents.

In today’s free read, Alice Vincent and Laura Keats, students at a seminary for young ladies, learn that small efforts can have big results.

The Systematic Givers was first published in 1887 as a short story in Isabella’s anthology, Harry’s Invention and Other Stories, and you can read it here for free!

The Systematic Givers

Slowly Alice Vincent and Laura Keats walked down the slope until they came to the rustic bridge that spanned the stream that ran through the seminary grounds; here in one of the pavilions that jutted out over the water they seated themselves for a talk.

“I know,” said Alice, taking up the thread of their conversation where it had been broken off a little way back when they met a party of girls bound for the butternut grove. These two had been urged to join the others, but they evidently preferred each other’s company, though they were not rude enough to say just that. “I know it does seem as though we might do something, but how to begin?”

“I do not know of any way but just to begin,” replied Laura.

“But who will start it?”

“Why, you for one, and I for another. Here you have been saying ever since we heard Mrs. Van Benshoten speak, that it seems as though we might do something; but saying that will never do anything. We must just do it.”

“What?” asked Alice.

“Call a meeting of the girls and organize for work.”

“The girls won’t come.”

“You and I will be there, and Minnie Crawford, and there are only three sides to a triangle, and that is all we had to begin geometry with.”

“But we shall have more than that,” replied Alice, laughing. “Annie Clark will join us and make a quadrilateral.”

“Well,” said Laura, “that will be a good beginning, and you know how we progress from polygons to circles—we may have a mission circle before we know it.”

That evening when, after tea, the students gathered for evening worship, the principal said:

“Immediately after this service, all who are interested in the forming of a mission band are requested to meet in the small room adjoining the library.”

Accordingly, instead of three or four, as the originators of the scheme had looked for, twenty-five girls filled the little room to overflowing.

Alice Vincent called the meeting to order, saying, “Miss Keats will state to us the object of this call.”

And Miss Keats stepped forward with a dignity which may have been assumed at first, but which gave place to something that was real, as she lost herself in her subject.

“We have lately heard,” she said, “some very astounding facts. Some of us knew a part of the truth before; at least we might have known it, but I dare say very few of us have been interested in knowing. But I think that in the course of the very able address to which we were privileged to listen last Sabbath, it was brought home to us very forcibly that there are millions upon millions of men and women sitting today in the darkness of heathenism. Many of them know that they are in the dark, and they are crying out to us to send them the light of the Gospel. You remember that we were told that people used to think that there were two points only to be looked at in this matter of sending the Gospel to the heathen: Were the people ready to receive it? and, Were the messengers ready to go? These two things Christians have been praying for, and now it would seem that ‘all things are ready.’ The heathen world has opened its doors to the Gospel; men and women well fitted for the work are ready and waiting to go; yet there is a halt in the work. Instead of two links there are three, and the middle one is missing. It is literally a golden link that is wanting. Now, girls, fellow students, does it not seem a burning shame that when so many are willing to take up the self-denying work—now that the very thing which the Church has been praying for has come to pass—I say, is it not a shame that the money should be wanting? I think we will all agree to that, and if so, we must own that a part of the disgrace is ours. The most of us are Christians; some part of the work belongs to us. Shall we take it up, and begin now? We have been called together to talk over the matter of organizing a mission circle; I would put it, a giving circle, for that is exactly what we propose to do, give! It is not quite time to propose a name for the organization, but when it comes to that, I want to propose, ‘The Systematic Givers.’”

Now I do not intent to give you in this sketch a lesson upon organization, so I shall not give a full report of the proceedings, or tell you how closely they followed Parliamentary usage. It is enough to tell you that “The Band of Systematic Givers” was duly organized, and properly officered. This motto was adopted:

“Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by in store as God hath prospered him.”

Each member of the band pledges herself to give one tenth of her spending money, or the money which she calls her own. Considerable discussion has arisen among the girls as to what moneys they have a right to tithe.

“What would you do about taking a tenth out of the money your father sent to you for a new dress?” asked Lily Case.

“Well,” replied Laura, “I will tell you what I did. Papa sent me thirty dollars for a dress, hat, etc., and I decided to take out a tenth, and got a new dress of a little cheaper materials, or a plainer hat. But I tell you, Lily, I never made even thirty dollars go so far as the twenty-seven did. Bess says my dress is prettier than hers that cost twenty-five dollars, and I know it will be more durable than hers.”

“With those of us who have an allowance which must cover all personal expenses there can be no question about the matter,” said Alice Vincent. “If we choose to deny ourselves of some luxuries, we have the right to do so, I suppose, but some of our fathers will say, ‘get what you need and have the bill sent home.’”

“I know,” replied Laura, “there is difficulty in some cases of knowing just what we may do; but all of us have something that we may call our very own, and that is all we are responsible for, after all. I know the girls pretty well, and with one or two exceptions, a tithe of what we spend for confectionery, creams and ices in the course of the term would buy a good many Bibles. We girls might almost support a missionary; certainly we can take a scholarship in some of the schools.”

And this is what they did: pledged themselves to support a pupil in a mission school. After several months had passed Lily Case remarked one day:

“Is it not wonderful how much we can do by following out a regular system? Why, I do not miss the money I give, and I actually give dollars where I used to give cents!”

“I am sorry you lose the blessing of self-denial,” said Laura, smiling. “You ought to give enough to miss it.”

“Oh, you need not imagine I do not feel it. Every time I take out the tenth it hurts, for I am naturally stingy. And I say to myself, ‘You old miser! You have got to deny yourself even if it does pinch.’ But after I put the money in the little gilt box, I find that I get along just as well without it to spend. And I love to hand it over to the treasurer. That is what I meant when I said I did not miss it.”

It was only a little while ago that Laura said, one evening, “Girls, I want to tell you something. I am going to India.”

And it was then and there decided that when Laura Keats goes to India “The Systematic Givers” will have a missionary of their own.

In this story, Isabella’s characters were inspired by a speech given by “Mrs. Van Benschoten,” who was a real person in Isabella’s life.

Mary Crowell Van Benschoten was an author and a leader in the Temperance Movement, but her greatest talent was in public speaking. She traveled the country, speaking in churches and at events where she inspired audiences to aid charities, fund churches, and contribute to women’s clubs and girls’ schools.

We can’t know how well Isabella knew Mary Van Benschoten, but Mary’s skill as an orator clearly made such an impression on Isabella, she felt compelled to mention her in the story as the inspiration behind the The Systematic Givers.

The Spirit of Steel and a GLH Quiz

4 Sep

Like her aunt Isabella Alden, Grace Livingston Hill often shared her novels with the public by publishing them in magazines prior to finalizing them in book form.

In 1929 one of her stories appeared as a serial in Good Stories magazine under the title “The Spirit of Steel.” You can see it listed on the magazine’s cover below:

One of the great advantages of having her stories published in magazines first, is that the magazines often employed artists to illustrate scenes from the story. Here’s one of the illustrations from Grace’s story “The Spirit of Steel,” depicting the two main characters meeting for lunch:

But when Grace published the story as a book, she changed the name of the story from “The Spirit of Steel” to something else.

Using the hints below, see if you can guess the name Grace gave the story when it was published as a hardback book in 1929.

Hint #1

Carol, the heroine of the story, works as a secretary in a construction firm.

Hint #2

When her boss falls ill on the eve of an important business trip to a construction site, Carol takes his place.

Hint #3

The story takes a suspenseful turn when Carol realizes she’s being followed by two men as she travels by train to the construction site.

Hint #4

Upon arriving at the construction site, Carol decides that her first order of business is to fire the handsome and attractive job foreman. There’s just one problem: he refuses to be fired!

Can you guess the name of the beloved Grace Livingston Hill novel that was originally called “The Spirit of Steel”?


Grace renamed the book Duskin when it was published as a hardback book in 1929.

If you guessed the right novel from these few hints, congratulations! You’re a GLH expert!

If you haven’t read Duskin yet, you can read it for free on your computer or Kindle reader. Just click here to begin reading!

A Bicycle Ride with You

28 Aug

With less than thirty days left of summer, it’s natural for Americans to try to spend as much time out of doors as possible before the weather begins to change.

And one popular way to do that is on a bicycle.

Lady cyclists in 1898. Their outfits include jaunty hats, puffed sleeves, and purses hung from clips attached to their belts.

Bicycle riding was extremely popular during Isabella Alden’s lifetime, especially for women. It gave them instant mobility, and a way to escape the homes they had been confined to for generations.

With a bicycle women could travel to see new sights or tour new towns—and they could do it without being dependent on a man.

Suffragist Susan B. Anthony said bicycling “has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”

The cover of Lippincott’s Magazine, July 1896.

Author and cycling advocate Lillias Campbell Davidson wrote that bicycle riding helped women escape their homes:

The lives of women have been unnaturally cramped and contracted within doors.

She encouraged housewives to take up cycling. She believed a good, healthy ride would help them return to their work “cheered, refreshed and braced to take up the burden of daily commonplace life once more.”

Another advantage cycling had for women was the change it made in their wardrobes. By 1900 women cyclists were wearing split skirts when riding, and many cycling women shed their corsets and petticoats for more practical attire.

From the December 1896 issue of The Lady Cyclist magazine

Not everyone liked the changes. When one Baltimore woman was criticized for wearing “bloomers” (as the divided skirts were called) while riding her bike, she replied:

“I can ride faster than people can talk.”

A ladies’ bicycle suit with divided skirt, 1898.

By 1898 bicycle sales to women were booming, thanks in large part to Sears, Roebuck & Company.

They began marketing affordable bicycles to ladies, and even printed a specialty catalog to market the many different models they offered.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. Bicycles specialty catalog of 1901.

Before long, women across the country were riding Sears bicycles, and discovering for themselves the thrill of healthy exercise and the freedom of traveling under their own power.

Are you a bicycle rider? What do you like most about the sport?

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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