Tag Archives: A New Graft on the Family Tree

A Diet of Doughnuts

26 Jan

One of the interesting things about reading Isabella’s books is the window they give us into how people lived between 1870 and 1920. From fashion to modes of travel, Isabella’s stories chronicle how different her daily life was from our modern lives today.

Donuts-Crisco ad 1915

One noted difference is how people ate around the turn of the 20th Century. Back then meat, vegetables and potatoes were diet staples; and when one of those ingredients was lacking, people relied on affordable food, like johnny-cakes, to fill their stomachs. Sally Lunn cakes helped celebrate special occasions; but of all the foods that Isabella mentioned in her books, it was the humble doughnut that appeared on the menu most often.

Donut lard ad-Boston Cooking School Magazine 1913

Because they were small and easily transported, children took doughnuts to school for their noon meal. When Wayne Pierson took the job of teacher in a small town in By Way of the Wilderness, he toured the school-house and found it somewhat lacking:

He had taken in each dismal detail—the air of desolation, the hacked desks, the smoky walls, the grimy windows, and the indescribable odor adhering to an old schoolroom: odors made up of generations of lunches—bread-and-butter, and headcheese, pie, and doughnuts.

Donuts 1916 Crisco ad

And in A New Graft on the Family Tree, a kind farmer’s wife fed wandering John Morgan breakfast, then gave him a pocket-full of doughnuts to take along on his journey.

Dusted with sugar, doughnuts were also served as a dessert.

Scott Towels ad 1915

 

In Christie’s Christmas, a generous farm family fed the passengers on the nearby stalled train with:

Bread and butter, piles of it; a soup-plate piled high with slices of ham, thin, and done to a crisp, and smelling, oh, so appetizing! Sheets of gingerbread, great squares of cheese, a bowl of doughnuts, another bowl of quince sauce, and a pail full of milk.

Ad 1919

And in David Ransom’s Watch, Hannah Sterns served the neighborhood boys’ literary club “doughnuts, or cookies, or seed cakes, or the ever popular tea-cakes. Scarcely a meeting of the club that winter but some dainty was offered in Harlan’s name in the way of refreshment.”

At Ermina’s wedding in Household Puzzles, the family couldn’t afford to serve cake, but they had doughnuts and “delicious coffee to drink with them.”

Donut making illustration Good Housekeeping Jan 1907

Today we think of doughnuts as a breakfast food for the most part, but in Isabella’s time, doughnuts—from humble and plain to cake-like confections—were served with almost any meal.

You can read previous posts about other food items mentioned in Isabella’s books:

Delicious Johnny-cakes
Sally Lunn at Mount Vernon

The Christian Calling Card

7 Jul

In 1922 Emily Post wrote, “with a hair-pin and a visiting card, [a woman] is ready to meet most emergencies.”

Do Good

There’s evidence of that maxim in Isabella Alden’s books. In several of her stories a simple calling card played a prominent role in the life of one of her characters.

Card Luke

In Spun from Fact, Jeanie Barrett had cards printed with only her name and this sentence in plain text:

“Are you saved by grace?”

Each time she gave away one of her cards, she did so with a purpose, and knew exactly how she wanted to engage that person in conversation about the straight-forward question printed on the card.

Spun from Fact Bible School training

A card used to announce dates and times of a Gospel worker’s upcoming speaking engagements.

In Workers Together; An Endless Chain, Dr. Everett’s calling card was printed on both sides. The front of the card gave the address and hours for his medical practice. On the other side he listed the times for Sunday worship services, Sunday School classes and weekly prayer meetings at the church where he was superintendent of the Sunday School.

card00495_fr

In A New Graft on the Family Tree, John Morgan received a calling card that changed his life. He was hungry and homeless, hopping one rail car after another to find anyone who would feed him in exchange for doing some work.

Spun from Fact card00555_frJohn’s situation was desperate; he was weak from hunger when he came across neat-looking house, with a neat kitchen-door; he knocked at it, and asked for a bit of bread. A trim old lady answered it. To his surprise she invited him in and fed him a savoury breakfast. And while John ate, the old woman talked to him:

“Well, there are a good many homeless people in the world. It must be hard; but then, you know, the Master himself gave up his home, and had not where to lay his head. Did it for our sakes, too. Wasn’t that strange! Seems to me I couldn’t give up my home. But he made a home by it for every one of us. I hope you’ve looked after the title to yours, young man.”

No answer from John, The old lady sighed, and said to herself, as she trotted away for a doughnut for him:

“He doesn’t understand, poor fellow! I suppose he never has had any good thoughts put into his mind. Dear me! I wish I could do something for him besides feeding his poor, perishing body!”

The little old lady trotted back, a plate of doughnuts in one hand, and a little card in the other.

“Put these doughnuts in your pocket; maybe they’ll come good when you are hungry again. And here is a little card; you can read, I suppose?”

The faintest suspicion of a smile gleamed in John Morgan’s eyes as he nodded assent.

“Well, then, you read it once in a while, just to please me. Those are true words on it; and Jesus is here yet trying to save, just the same as he always was. He wants to save you, young man, and you better let him do it now. If I were you I wouldn’t wait another day.”

Card Proverbs

John waited until he left the woman’s house and was tramping down the street before he looked at the card she gave him.

It was a simple enough card, printed on it in plain letters these words:

“It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

Then, underneath:

“I am the bread of life. He that believeth on me shall never hunger.”

Still lower on the card, in ornamented letters, the words:

“The Master has come, and calleth for thee.”

Then a hand pointing to an italicized line:

“I that speak unto thee am he.”

John thrust the card into his pocket and strode towards the village depot to board another train, unaware that the little card would eventually change his life.

Card Isaiah

You can still find examples of religious calling cards on ebay, Etsy and other Internet sites. But Isabella’s books demonstrated that religious calling cards by themselves were not enough to change a person’s life. In her stories, a calling card may have opened the door to a conversation about salvation, but it was the act of the person who gave the card—their kindness and concern for someone else—that turned those small pieces of cardstock into the means by which a soul was saved.

ROX9F19

You can read more about the vagabond life John Morgan would have lead. Click here to read our previous post, The Fraternity of the Tramp.


Click on a book cover to read more about Isabella’s books mentioned in this post.

Cover_Workers Together v2   Cover_Spun from Fact   Cover_A New Graft on the Family Tree

Quotable

27 Jan

Pansy cutoutIsn’t it a pity in this carping world we cannot oftener put ourselves in other people’s places, mentally, at least, and try to discover how we should probably feel, and talk, and act, were we surrounded by their circumstances and biased by their educations?

 —from A New Graft on the Family Tree

Quotable

6 Jan

Pansies by Paul de Longpre 1900If people only would influence each other just as much as they could, and just as high as they could, what a wonderful thing this living would be!

 —from A New Graft on the Family Tree

Quotable

13 Nov

Pansy 03“Diligent in business, serving the Lord.” There is no period dividing these. I long ago discovered that I could make a bed and sweep a room for His sake, as surely as I could speak a word for Him.
—A New Graft on the Family Tree

Tidies in Every Home

21 Oct

An essential accessory in every well-managed home in the late 19th Century was the tidy. A tidy was a piece of cloth used to protect furniture. Tidies were draped over the backs of chairs or placed on the flat tops of tables, dressers, or chests of drawers.

Tassled tidy in a Victorian sitting room

Today we’d call them doilies or antimacassars. Depending on the household and a family’s means, tidies could be very simple and plain or elaborately decorated creations of silk, velvet, or other costly materials.

1890 photo of a Scottish sitting room with a tidy draped over pillow on the front center chair

Tidies weren’t just decorative; they served a very useful purpose. Without tidies, upholstered furniture would have been ruined at an alarming rate by the grooming products people used.

Image of Ayers Hair Vigor trade card with young woman

At the time, men, women and children used hair dressings of various kinds on a daily basis. Unfortunately, hygiene habits were different then and people didn’t wash the dressings from their hair with the same frequency. Housekeepers draped tidies over the backs of chairs and sofas to keep all that hair oil and cream from rubbing off on the furniture.

Like today, there were hair products for every need. For ladies, Ayers Hair Vigor offered delicately perfumed hair dressings.

 

Front side of an Ayers Hair Vigor trade card     Back of the trade card detailing manufacturer's claims

Rowlands’ Macassar Oil (from which we get the word, antimacassar) advertised its product as a pure oil that prevented grey hair.

Macasar Oil ad 1895

There was Mellier’s Hair Dressing, made with quinine, which the manufacturer claimed relieved dandruff, itching or irritated scalp.

Melliers Hair Dressing with quinine

There were even hair products that claimed to cure baldness, such as Barry’s Tricopherous preparation, which guaranteed that it would restore hair to bald heads.

    

And Halls Hair Renewer also promised to “stimulate hair growth,” as well as cleanse and beautify hair.

    

Perhaps one of the most popular products was Seven Sutherland Sisters’ Hair Grower, which hit the market in 1883. The product was named for the seven daughters of the Sutherland family, who bottled a foul-smelling concoction developed by their mother, which they claimed gave them healthy hair that reached almost to the floor.

Seven Sutherland Sisters advertising card

The Sutherland sisters used their own images to advertise their hair grower and toured the country promoting their product.

Photo of Victoria Sutherland

With so much hair dressing in use, efficient housekeepers relied on tidies to protect their furniture from staining and damage. Tidies had to be laundered and changed frequently, and women kept a good stock of them in the house at all times.

Tidy from Godeys Ladys Book 1880

Tidy pattern from Godey’s Lady’s Book 1880

Instructions for making tidies filled the pages of women’s magazines and manuals. Whether crocheted, embroidered, or adorned with ribbons and lace, new designs were as varied as they were plentiful.

In many of Isabella Alden’s books, the heroines engaged in sewing tidies for their homes. They also made tidies to give as gifts or sell in order to raise funds for the church or to support missions.

 

Tidy pattern from Peterson’s Magazine, June 1888

In Household Puzzles, Carrie Hartley crocheted a tidy, “a pretty thing of wreaths and leaves.”

“Isn’t it lovely?” she said, holding it up to view. “I am perfectly wild over fancy work.”

And in A New Graft on the Family Tree, Louise received so many new tidies as wedding gifts, her sister Estelle didn’t think she could ever use them all. By Christmas, however, Louise had made use of a good number of the tidies:

Perhaps no one little thing contributed to the holiday air which the room had taken on more than did the tidies of bright wools and clear white, over which Estelle had wondered when they were being packed.

Louise thought of her and smiled, and wished she could have had a glimpse of them as they adorned the two rounding pillow-like ends of the sofa, hung in graceful folds from the small table that held the blossoming pinks, adorned the back and cushioned seat and arms of the wooden rocking-chair in the fireplace corner, and even lay smooth and white over the back of Father Morgan’s old chair, which Louise had begged for the other chimney-corner, and which Mrs. Morgan, with a mixture of indifference and dimly-veiled pride, had allowed to be taken thither. Little things were these, everyone, yet what a transformation they made!

 

Tidy pattern Peterson Mag Jan 1888

Tidy pattern from Peterson’s Magazine, January 1888

 

Tidy pattern from Petersons Magazine Oct 1888

Tidy pattern from Peterson’s Magazine, October 1888

Some tidies required extraordinary skill and patience to accomplish. Creating them often involved long hours of painstaking effort; but sewing tidies (and other needlework projects that fell into the category of “fancywork”) was a way for ladies to express their creativity and imaginative vision, while beautifying their homes.

Drawing-room at Sevenoaks by Charles Essenhigh Corke, 1905

Would you like to read more about the seven Sutherland Sisters and their remarkable hair that made them a fortune? Click on the following links to read articles in Yankee Magazine and Collectors’ Weekly:

Yankee Magazine: http://www.yankeemagazine.com/article/history/seven-sutherland-sisters

Collectors Weekly: http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/the-seven-sutherland-sisters-and-their-37-feet-of-hair/

You can click on any of the images in this post to view a larger version.

Quotable

2 Jun

Wild flowers v 2

 

Are there things too small for His notice, when He himself refers us to the fading wild flowers for lessons?

—A New Graft on the Family Tree

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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