Tag Archives: Christie’s Christmas

Pansy’s Most Frequent Character

13 Mar

As a fan of Pansy’s books you may have noticed that Isabella’s characters frequently show up in different stories.

Eagle-eyed readers with good memories often spot them. For example, Brewster is a surname that appears in several of her books:

Her Mother’s Bible
Only Ten Cents
Aunt Hannah and Martha and John
Living a Story
Circulating Decimals

That’s a lot of Brewsters!

“Girl with Dog” by John White Alexander.

But the character that appeared most often in Isabella’s books wasn’t a Brewster at all; in fact, it wasn’t even a person!

The character Isabella wrote about most often was Bose the dog.

Sidney Martin’s Christmas (1879)

Bose first came to life in this short story when he interrupted a group of children singing Christmas carols in their neighborhood:

Just at that very point they stopped every voice, and little Gretchen, the youngest of the group, gave a little squeal that did not belong to the carol. It was plain that something had frightened them. Sidney crossed over to them. Just inside of the gate had appeared old Bose, the great house dog, and he was not a lover of their music, to judge by the low growls with which he greeted it.

“Don’t be afraid,” said Sidney, coming promptly into view. “I know old Bose and he knows me. He is an ill-mannered scamp, but he won’t hurt you so long as I am around. You sing away and I will stand guard.”

“Newfoundland” by Carl Reichert.

Christie’s Christmas (1884)

In this novel, Christie meets Bose when she’s trying to do a good deed, and comes upon an enormous dog that literally knocks her off her feet:

Bow, wow, wow! Here was a fellow who disputed the way with her, and came suddenly towards her, as if the least that he should think of doing was to swallow her at once.

Now it happened that Christie, unusually brave about most things, was dreadfully afraid of a dog.

She gave a pitiful little shriek, and the next thing she knew, she was picking herself out of the meanest looking mud hole she had seen in her trip. The dog had retired to a safe distance, and with his head hung down, and his silly little tail between his legs, was receiving a lecture from a woman with a frowzy head, and sleeves rolled up at the elbow, who appeared in the door of the little house.

“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself!” she said, shaking her head. “A decent dog you are to be cutting up such tricks! Come along, child; what do you want? There’s no kind of need of your being afraid of that there dog. There ain’t a bigger coward in all Kansas than he is.”

Spun from Fact (1886)

In 1886 Bose made a brief appearance in Spun from Fact as a faithful dog mourning the loss of his young master, Frank:

I slipped out in the yard, and began to coax the old dog into a frolic. He got into a tremendous one at last, and bounded about me in such a ridiculous way that I laughed loud and long, and rolled on the grass in my glee. Just then I looked up on the piazza, and there stood my aunt! I bounded to my feet all in a glow of shame.

But she was smiling as pleasantly as I had ever seen her, although at that minute there were tears in her eyes, and she said, ‘Poor Bose will be grateful to you all day. He misses Frank very much. He used to frolic with him, you know. It is pleasant to hear a merry young voice again in the yard.’

A young girl and her Bernardiner.

Grandma’s Miracles; Stories Told at Six o’Clock in the Evening (1887)

In this book, Grandma Burton tells the story of Bose, a great, menacing beast who crossed her path when she was a child. She described how:

. . . a great white dog, that looked as ugly as his mistress, glared on me and growled. I was trembling so that I could hardly stand,

Just as I turned the corner by Mr. Willard’s place I heard a low growl, and there stood Bose eyeing me in a way to make my heart beat fast. I was dreadfully afraid of Bose, and with good reason: he had the name of being a very fierce dog; they kept him chained all day. I saw the chain around his neck then, but still I was afraid.

A 1913 calendar trade card, featuring two girls and a Newfoundland.

That terrifying dog with the chain around  his neck would later play a very important role in young Grandma Burton’s life.

Bose also made appearances in several short stories in The Pansy magazine.

Curiously, Isabella didn’t describe Bose in detail. In fact, Grandma’s Miracles is the only book that tells us his color (white).

A trade card from about 1900. Any guesses what this dog’s breed is supposed to be?

But we know Bose was a large dog, perhaps a shepherd, a collie, or even a mastiff, any of which are breeds known to be especially protective of children.

A Mastiff.

We also know that Bose often appeared menacing at first, only to show that underneath his barks and growls, he was a loyal friend with a heart of gold.

And that was true of many of Isabella’s human characters, too.

Have you ever known a great big dog that frightened little girls, as Bose did? Please tell us about it!


You can read more about the Isabella Alden books mentioned in this post by clicking on the book covers below:

    Image of the cover for Sidney Martin's Christmas

   

 

Getting from Here to There

8 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rural station at Galion, Ohio.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pansy’s Gentlemen

4 Oct

In The Ester Ried Series, Isabella chronicled the transformation of a young man named Jim Forbes. Jim first appeared in The King’s Daughter as a member of a wild bunch of boys who showed up at church for the sole purpose of terrorizing the Sunday-school teachers.

Dapper young men in bowler and derby hats-1910

Homer Nelson, who was in charge of the Sunday-school classes, described Jim and his friends:

“Oh, they swear outrageously, and smoke profusely, and gamble whenever they get a chance, not often for money, for they have very little of that article about them; but for raisins, or pins, or straws, or anything that is convenient, and they use liquor freely, every one of them.”

But by the end of The Ester Ried books, Jim was a different person. In fact, he came to be so well regarded, his friends at church gave him a gift: “a dainty and elegant, and altogether perfect gold watch and chain.”

A young gentleman with his gold watch and chain. From OldFamilyPhotos.com

A young gentleman with his gold watch and chain. From OldFamilyPhotos.com

Jim was astonished to receive the watch, not only because of its beauty and cost, but because of what it represented. In the times in which Isabella lived, a man who carried such a watch and chain was considered a gentleman of the first order.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, true gentlemen followed a very strict code of dress that was based, in large part, on the model promoted by Britain’s Lord Chesterfield, who famously said:

“I cannot help forming some opinion of a man’s sense and character from his dress.”

A Victorian Gentleman, by Vittorio Matteo Corcos, 1890.

A Victorian Gentleman, by Vittorio Matteo Corcos, 1890.

Isabella agreed whole-heartedly. In her books, Isabella dressed her gentlemen in neat, conservative, well-fitting suits. Even the wealthy men who populated her stories (like Edward Stockwell in The Ester Ried Series, Judge Burnham in The Chautauqua Books, and Mr. Burton in Christie’s Christmas) dressed in a way that did not call attention to themselves or their wealth.

Dressing in the “height of the fashion,” Isabella believed, was better left to dandies and pretenders.

A Paris dandy, circa 1890.

A Paris dandy, circa 1890. His multiple watch chains, quizzing glass, elaborate buttons, and overly-shiny shoes would have been considered vulgar by American standards.

There were essential elements of a gentleman’s attire. In addition to a well-fitting coat and trousers, a gentleman always appeared in a waistcoat and tie.

Portrait of Henry Cabot Lodge, by John Singer Sargent, 1890.

Portrait of Henry Cabot Lodge, by John Singer Sargent, 1890.

Even when they were relaxing around the house or engaging in leisure activities, men wore coats, ties, and waistcoats.

Captain John Spicer, dressed to go fishing, by John Singer Sargent, 1901.

Captain John Spicer, dressed to go fishing, by John Singer Sargent, 1901.

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Portrait of the artist's brother, dressed for riding, by Arthur Hacker, 1882.

Portrait of the artist’s brother, dressed for riding, by Arthur Hacker, 1882.

Another essential element of a gentleman’s appearance was an appropriate amount of facial hair. Beards and moustaches were considered to be a symbol of masculinity.

Self-portrait, by James Wells Champney.

Self-portrait, by James Wells Champney.

Isabella’s men wore beards and moustaches, as well. In Helen Lester, Helen’s dashing older brother Cleveland returned home from Europe looking very handsome and “heavily bearded.”

Portrait of Leon Delafosse, by John Singer Sargent, 1898.

Portrait of Leon Delafosse, by John Singer Sargent, 1898.

And charming Ralph Ried wore a full beard in The Ester Ried Series of books.

Undated photo of young man with a full beard and moustache. From Pinterest.

Undated photo of young man with a full beard and moustache. From Pinterest.

Coats, ties, waistcoats, and beards—they were all essential to a man’s attire in Isabella’s world, but a popular 1866 book on “etiquette and true politeness” carried this reminder:

Gentility is neither in birth, manner, nor fashion—but in the MIND. A high sense of honor—a determination never to take a mean advantage of another—an adherence to truth, delicacy, and politeness toward those with whom you may have dealings—are the essential and distinguishing characteristics of A GENTLEMAN.

A 1901 photo of a fashionably dressed gentleman.

A 1901 photo of a fashionably dressed gentleman.

You can click on the links below to find out more about Isabella’s books mentioned in this post.

The Ester Ried Series

Helen Lester

The Chautauqua Books

 

 

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

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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