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Simplifying the Wash, Civil War Style

Oak tubs, washboards, iron pots, fire grates, homemade soap, bluing, and plenty of back-breaking work were the basic things needed to get clothes clean mid-century. This 1861 drawing of two hard-working entrepreneurs gives a good idea of the basics. However, Robert Kemp Phillip in The Family Save-All (1861) suggests numerous ways to make the process "easier."... Continue Reading →

Maple Sugaring Civil War Style

Away! Away to the maple grove! Come hither my boys and girls, thither let us rove. "The Sugar-Camp" by Harry in Merry's Museum 1862 p. 80 Isaac Hurlburt lived not too very far down the same road I live on today. His farming round was also much like our own, except we only raised sheep... Continue Reading →

The Sewing Machine and the Civil War

The elegance, speed, noiselessness and simplicity of the machine; the beauty and strength of the stitch:...impossible to ravel, and leaving no chain or ridge on the under side; the economy of thread and adaptability to the thickest or thinnest fabrics, have rendered this the most successful and popular sewing machine made. (Advertisement for a Weber... Continue Reading →

A Coat of Shoddy

I Wish I Had a Fat Contract to the tune of Barbara Allen But if I had a fat contract To make clothes for de solders De army coats and striped pants, I wouldn't use no shoddy Nor no oder stuff that's rotten; But I'd use the very best of cloth, Widout a bit of... Continue Reading →

Valentine’s Day Civil War Style

"...this is the day on which those charming little missives, ycelped* Valentines, cross and inter-cross at every street and turning. The weary and all forespent twopenny postman sinks below a load of delicate embarrassments, not his own." Valentine's Day in Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb 1860 (*called) Valentine's Day was a well-established holiday by the... Continue Reading →

Mailing a Letter Civil War Style

During wartime communicating with loved ones becomes an overwhelming concern. In the Civil War period many soldiers and families wrote letters to each other almost daily. Postage was cheap by our standards 3 cents per half ounce which was lowered to 2 cents in October of 1863. But for people who earned an average salary of $20 a month... Continue Reading →

The Christmas Tree Civil War Style

When we think of magic, probably one of the most magical things of the Christmas season are brilliantly lit Christmas trees. Although decking the house with boughs of pine was a traditional Christmas practice [the pine scent was believed to clean the air and prevent disease], Christmas trees were uncommon in early America. The custom,... Continue Reading →

Turkey Civil War Style

While soldiers in the field were waiting for their turkeys to arrive packed in crates filled with straw and kept cold, hopefully, by winter weather, at home women were preparing to roast their turkeys. Roasting a turkey in the 1800s meant cooking it on a spit inside a tin oven. Catherine Esther Beecher in her 1859... Continue Reading →

Thanksgiving during the Civil War

Thanksgiving had been celebrated in America from the time of the Puritans, and soldiers had taken the tradition with them when they went to war. In 1863 President Lincoln declared November 26 as a national day of "thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens" in response to a letter from... Continue Reading →

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