I’ve read fiction set in the nineteenth century that references doorbells– and gets it right! (I can’t properly convey how giddy this makes me!) Picture that turnkey doorbell that makes a mechanical clattering sound inside the house.
Today, February 23, is National Banana Bread Day. While banana bread (as we now know it) became a staple among home bakers in the 1930s, banana bread had its start in the late Victorian era where “banana flour” came to the United States from the tropics. Vintage newspaper advertisements show the beginnings of banana bread available in bakeries and homemakers’ awareness of quality nutrition to be found in the imported fruit and “flour.” With or without nuts, banana bread is a hallmark of American quick breads… and our nineteenth century ancestors, complete with baking powder and a wealth of cake-baking knowledge, were prepared for the post-Great Depression’s urge to “use it up.”
Etiquette and all that is deemed “good manners” morphs over time. Behavior that our nineteenth-century ancestors would find appropriate has largely disappeared, and today’s idea of a man’s best actions with his hat would appall our great-granddaddies. Specifically speaking, “Common Details of Western Historical Romance that are Historically Incorrect, Part 2” entails nineteenth century hat etiquette–specifically men in the company of women–and contains more vintage citations than my earlier post titled Hat Etiquette of the Victorian Era.
Today, January 24th, is the United States’ National Peanut Butter Day. On March 1st, calendars declare the day National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day.
Who first invented peanut butter? Doctors worried about elderly patients’ nutrition, right? Sometime in the nineteenth century?
Uh, no. Not exactly.
But peanut butter–an “All American” spread–was enjoyed by our Victorian-American ancestors. Read vintage articles instructing knowledgeable housewives of the many dietary uses of the peanut, vintage recipes instructing the proper making of “peanut paste”, the inclusion of pulverized peanut (paste, flour, finely chopped), and ultimately, advertised brands to buy at their grocers’ markets.
Victorian Americans favored many different kinds of puddings for desserts, during all seasons of the year. One type was tapioca–which hasn’t changed much in the intervening hundred-plus years. See many similar recipes in vintage era cook books and newspapers; plain, apple, peach, (and early in the 20th century, caramel).
We know coffee was an every-day commodity in the Victorian American West, but how much do you know about its availability, preparation methods, the era’s tried-and-true substitutions, and where it was purchased? Come see!
A newspaper article published on November 25, 1897 (El Dorado, KS, syndicated from NY Tribune) sheds historical light on what Thanksgiving Day was to the late Victorians in the United States. Includes: origins, thanksgiving souvenirs, thanksgiving entertainments, and thanksgiving decorations… a glimpse into Thanksgiving in 1897.
At the outset of Unmistakably Yours, Hank Murphy, proprietor of a fine new grocery emporium, is desperate to ensure adequate supplies to see his community through winter have arrived safely in Mountain Home. Much like Aesop’s fables about ants and grasshoppers, the American-Victorian era is ripe with moral-rich stories urging hard work during the summer to secure safety and comfort in the winter. This vintage newspaper article from 1880 showcases an example of the era’s “stories with a moral”.
How did our Victorian-American ancestors select a turkey? How did they roast it (without a Reynold’s Oven Bag)? Were their Thanksgiving Dinner side dishes as complicated as restaurant menus made them appear?
This newspaper article, published in Vermont Journal of Windsor, Vermont, on November 30, 1889, instructs our Victorian ancestors (in the United States) how to properly carve a turkey. Picture the Thanksgiving table laden with fancy dishes, and the head of the household carving the bird from his place of honor at the head of the table.