Old West homemakers churned their own butter as part of a time-intensive process. Churning butter depends upon much more than simply agitating cream–temperature matters. Can you imagine trying to churn butter on a bitterly cold day or in the heat of the summer when the process depended upon a narrow range of temperatures?
Despite knowing this book was probably only about the Victorian Era in England, and hence households in Great Britain, I was hopeful I’d learn plenty in this nonfiction volume about households of the era outside of GB. I’m satisfied that I did, without the author touching on it.
While America wasn’t mentioned, more specifically, my specialty of the Western United States, the fact remains that the Old West (and the U.S. at large) did have a Victorian Era. England’s Victorian attitudes, practices, expectations, and culture most certainly did impact and strongly influence the United States. It’s evident that many things would be the same in all western cultures, e.g. housekeepers dyed curtains and repainted furniture as needed– upkeep that is most out-dated presently.
I read this book specifically for my own ongoing research and understanding of history. It explains a great deal in four chapters: 1) Middle-class Victorian Homes, 2) Mistress of the Household, 3) Recruiting and Replacing the Servants, and 4) Life Below Stairs.
Laundry was a greater challenge– and more work– than most amateur historians comprehend. Even when methods gave way from a washboard to a washing machine, the amount of physical labor required was nothing simple. Manual washing machines didn’t become available until quite late in the frontier era– after the Transcontinental Railroad went through. The washing machine was first available to order through a catalog in the late 1880’s.
Historic recipes are a valuable link to our immigrant ancestors (whether the actual recipe is a family heirloom or not). This recipe for shortbread and Pebber Nodder (Danish Butter Cookies) put me in mind of my great grandmother. I include the Top 5 Reasons why I care about old fashioned cookie recipes.
Twenty-first century people have it easy. In fact, most of us don’t know how to make soap–much less the ingredients (found on the Old West homestead) that should be saved in the process of living so that soap could be made. Soap did become readily available through catalog orders, but it cost money, and the more remove a settler, or the earlier a man or family found themselves on a frontier, the dirty, hot job of soap making was a necessary one. This article sheds light on the process, basic ingredients, methodology, as well as the rise of commercially prepared soap products.