Desiccated Vegetables Civil War Style

Today when we want fresh vegetables in the middle of the winter we need go no further than our local grocery. During the Civil War, it wasn't so easy. In the next series of posts, I will be examining how foods were preserved in the 1860s. Drying Air and heat drying is one of the... Continue Reading →

Sleigh-Riding Civil War Style

Brr. It's January and the snow is falling at least in some parts of the world. Are you looking out your window right now? Are you lucky enough to see expanses of white snow and to be dreaming of riding with your beau in a one-horse sleigh? How romantic you might be thinking. However, Jennie... Continue Reading →

Christmas Poems and Pictures Civil War Style

The 1864 Christmas Poems and Pictures: A Collection of Songs, Carols, and Descriptive Poems relating to the Festival of Christmas is typical of the Christmas books popular during the Civil War period. Published in New York by James J. Gregory it contains old English Christmas carols such as "A Carol for the Wassail Bowl", religious... Continue Reading →

Elevators Civil War Style

Yes, there were elevators in use during the Civil War. In fact, elevators actually have a very long history. Elevators or hoists to lift supplies to the top floors of buildings or to lower men and equipment into mines using pulleys can be dated back to the third century. These simple platforms were raised by... Continue Reading →

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 →

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 →

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 →

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 →

They Wore Printed Calicos

Visit any Civil War re-enactment event and you will find women sporting dresses in colorful calicos - those small floral or geometric all-over patterns that sometimes make your eyes spin. All that color can't be you might think. But, in fact, calicos were a featured item in dry good ads in period newspapers and adorned Civil War ladies... Continue Reading →

They Wore Cotton

In 1860 cotton was the United States' largest export. Produced cheaply through slave labor, the American cotton trade provided most of the world's supply. Sixty-four percent of slaves lived on cotton plantations. While ardent abolitionists refused to buy slave-produced cotton and in 1838 established the American Free Produce Association, the boycott had little effect, probably, because the... Continue Reading →

A Civil War Boy’s Diary

In my last post I referred to the diary of Lucy James Stoughton of Castle Creek. I came across another local diary in my files. This one by a boy of about the same age as Lucy. Diary of a Binghamton Boy of the 1860s was edited and explained by Marjory Barnun Hinman and published in... Continue Reading →

The Ladies of Castle Creek’s “World’s Fare”

While the beneficent ladies of New York City waited until 1864 to stage their extravaganza to raise thousands of dollars for the Sanitary Commission and the care of the wounded, other women were doing their part from early on. In the winter of 1861 when it was becoming apparent the war was going to be long and... Continue Reading →

Civil War Medical Books for the Home

"Medical works are generally a heterogeneous compound of vague ideas and jaw-breaking words, in which the dead languages are largely employed to treat of living subjects. Orthodoxy in medicine consists in walking in the beaten paths of Esculapian ancestors, and looking with grave contempt on all who essay to cut out new paths for themselves.... Continue Reading →

Beneficient Ladies of New York

If you were a well-to-do lady living in New York in April 1864 and a member of the Union League Club House, you might have found yourself deep in preparations for the Metropolitan  Fair. Impressed by the successes of the Sanitary Fairs in Chicago and Boston in raising money for the care of wounded soldiers, New... Continue Reading →

Fun in the Snow 1860s Style

It snowed today and a white Christmas is predicted for my region. Time to have fun in the snow! Despite the war, children during the Civil War period loved snow as much as children do today. Indeed, the 1864 American Boy's Book of Sports and Games included snow play among its many healthful activities for American boys.... Continue Reading →

Sleigh Rides in the 1860s

  Why do parties choose a moonlit night for sleigh rides? Because they are pleasanter than dark nights. "Proceedings of the Farmers' Club" in the  Annual Report of the City of New York 1864 p. 165. Here it is December 15, and no snow, no snowmen, and no sleds. I am looking  out my window... Continue Reading →

A Civil War Christmas Story

There are but few children, in this matter-of-fact age, who have real faith in the jolly little man with mouse-skins and reindeer...  No this wasn't written in 2012. This is taken from the children's book  Keep a Good Heart: A Story for Christmas Time by Cousin Carrie 1864 p. 78.  What can children's books tell... Continue Reading →

Almanacs: Time, Tides, and Government Officials

Today November 11th I picked broccoli in my garden, an unheard of event in the time I have lived here on the Allegany Plateau of central New York. Usually by now successive nights in the 20s would have done even those hardy plants in. If I were to believe the Old Farmer's Almanac 2013, instead of... Continue Reading →

Friendly Advice for the Farmer

What about Civil War era farmers? Where did they get their knowledge of how to grow the crops that fed their families, villages, towns, cities, and armies? Why from the American Agriculturist published with the modern farmer in mind from 1845 to today. Here, found interspersed between melodramatic stories, children's drawings, and Rebus puzzles, amidst ads for... Continue Reading →

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