"What are Declarations of Independence and universal equality, and what are paltry muskets in the hands of insurgents, before the insinuating democracy of a cheap horse, that is swift, yet tractable, for any one of any age or either sex; that requires no feeding, no attendance, and no stable room? Verily, the pursuit of happiness is most reasonably attempted if the pursuer is mounted on the swiftness and comfort of a bicycle."—Humphrey, Marmaduke. "A Cycle Show in Little", Godey’s Magazine, April 1896, pp. 367—378.
July 5: Happy birthday, P.T. Barnum, showman extraordinaire!
A friend suggested that some of our favorite pictures and artwork would make pretty greeting cards —please enjoy sharing them!
(We're in the later part of this article —when you go to the site, scroll down to the heading, "Victorian Secrets".)
"…For some people, home is a place. For others, it’s an entire lifestyle.… Chrisman is a novelist, and the Victorian lifestyle helps inform her work. “One of the basic axioms of writing is ‘write what you know,’ and living with Victorian technologies and cultural elements on a daily basis helps me know and understand them at a very deep level,” she says. “When I mention the cat’s-whisker sense that tells a woman her skirts are brushing a piece of furniture or a character gripping her chatelaine chains together so she can move stealthily without them clanking or the way that the homey smell of kerosene can raise someone’s spirits when a lamp is lit on a gloomy night, these, and many more, are things I experience myself with quite some frequency.…"
Read the rest of the piece here.
Hey there, everyone!
I was featured in "Seattle Wrote" —have fun sharing the piece around!
"Although she got her start in publishing nonfiction, historical fiction set in the Victorian Era is her passion… Set in the fictional town of Chetzemoka, which is named for a real local Native American chieftain, the location of the books is strongly inspired by the town of Port Townsend where Sarah and Gabriel live. The first book, First Wheel In Town: A Victorian Cycling Club Romance, takes place in the summer of 1881 when the local doctor introduces the first bicycle the town has ever seen. "I wanted to show the society from different perspectives, so each book focuses on different characters within the cycling club," Sarah said…"
Read the rest of the feature here.
Then read the books!
I put together an anthology of Victorian writings about roses, transcribed from our antique books and magazines:
A Bouquet of Victorian Roses
Available on Amazon
"What flower did she most resemble?… A rose! Certainly… strong, vigorous, self-asserting… yet shapely, perfect in outline and development, exquisite, enchanting in its never fully realized tints, yet compelling the admiration of every one, and recalling its admirers again and again by the unspoken appeal of its own perfection—its unvarying radiance." —John Habberton, 1876.
All hail the Queen of Flowers! In this collection of Victorian writings on roses, brief prose remarks, lovely poetry and engaging short stories are gathered together —all with nature's most perfect blossom as their central theme. From poetry on the fragrant beauty of roses, to tales ranging from a ghost story about roses as omens, to a romance of love among the roses, this collection will delight anyone who dreams of being surrounded by roses. A perfect gift for weddings, birthdays… or your own sunny afternoon!
The following passage and nineteenth-century recipes appear in Appendix II of A Trip and a Tumble, along with recipes for the other foods mentioned in the story. Enjoy!
At the time of this story, Olympia oysters were the only fresh oysters available in the Pacific Northwest; high demand due to their extreme popularity was depleting the supply. In 1881 the first efforts had made to "rebed" (what would now be termed "seed") more oysters, and in 1895 a French system of "parking" oysters (growing them on a system of dykes) was introduced to the region. These efforts helped the Olympia oyster rebound, but a combination of market forces and natural bad luck nearly wiped it out.
Much bigger Eastern (Atlantic) oysters were brought to Puget Sound and seeded in the local oyster beds as an experiment; later the Atlantic oysters would lose pride of place to even bigger and more profitable Pacific oysters introduced to the Northwest from Japan.
On the night of January 13, 1907, disaster hit the oysters of Puget Sound. An unusually low tide coincided with a freak cold snap, leaving them exposed to temperatures eighteen degrees below freezing. While this temperature would not be considered unusual in many parts of the world, it was fatal for many intertidal life forms on Puget Sound —especially the oysters, which froze to death in the frigid air before the tide could come in again. The loss to oyster growers was estimated at several hundred thousand dollars at the time, and the Olympia oyster was expected to be off the market entirely for five years. The long-term impact was even more profound because the incident sped up the rate at which faster growing and more profitable oysters were superceding the little Olympias.
Today Olympia oysters are only cultivated in Totten Inlet at the south end of Puget Sound. To read about efforts to reintroduce Olympia oysters on a large scale around Puget Sound, go to <http://www.restorationfund.org/projects/olympiaoyster>. To buy Olympia oysters from a family on Totten Inlet which has been cultivating shellfish since 1890, go to <https://www.taylorshellfishfarms.com>
 Brenner, J.J. "Thurston County Oyster Industry." The Coast. March, 1909. p. 152.
 Stearns, Robert E.C., "Oysters of the West Coast." March, 1908. National Geographic, p. 225.
Beach, Anna. Clever Cooking, Seattle, Washington: Metropolitan Printing & Binding Co., 1896. p. 69.
2 cups of mushrooms (a few more or less will not matter)
1 pint of oysters
2 tablespoonfuls of butter
2 tablespoonfuls of flour
1/4 cup of sherry
Peel and break into small pieces the mushrooms and put them in a stewpan with a little water; cook until tender, stirring frequently. Heat the butter and stir into it the flour, rubbing smooth, add the cream gradually and let it boil up once. Add to this the mushrooms and oysters, season with salt and cayenne pepper and add the wine. Serve on toast.
Beach, Anna. Clever Cooking, Seattle, Washington: Metropolitan Printing & Binding Co., 1896. p. 69.
1 pint solid native oysters
1 saltspoonful salt
2 small tablespoonfuls flour
1 large tablespoonful butter
1 saltspoonful pepper
2 small cups milk
Yolks of 2 eggs
Stir your flour, pepper and salt in a little cold milk, then stir this into your boiling milk and add butter. When this is the consistency of cream, have a quart of boiling water and pour your oysters into it, and give them a shake or a stir with a spoon; then turn immediately into a colander, drain well, and stir them into your cream. Set over a slow fire for five minutes for oysters to finish cooking. Beat the yolks of the 2 eggs in a little milk and stir into your cream, then fill your shell. This will serve eight persons.
Beach, Anna. Clever Cooking, Seattle, Washington: Metropolitan Printing & Binding Co., 1896. p. 68.
Put 1 large tablespoonful of butter in a stewpan, add a small onion, chopped very fine, a dessert spoonful of parsley and a dozen mushrooms chopped; let these fry one minute; add 1 dessert spoonful (scant) of flour, stir well together; then drop in as many oysters as required, which have previously been blanched and bearded. Stir and add the beaten yolks of three eggs, one at a time, taking care they do not curdle but get just thick enough to adhere to the oysters. Take skewers and string 6 oysters onto each one, basting with the sauce wherever it does not adhere. Let these cook, then roll in beaten egg and abundant cracker meal, so that it looks like a sausage with a skewer run through lengthwise. Fry, in deep fat, two minutes. Great care must be taken to have the fat hot enough, about 380 to 400 degrees, so that the oysters will become a pale brown in that time, as they would become hard and tough if cooked longer. Serve on a napkin, allowing one skewer to each person.
All stories come from somewhere, and sometimes the best of them start when an author's research unearths something surprising which refuses to let go of their imagination. Find out how an 1891 description of a posh American Indian and her pretty phaeton inspired my latest book by going to
A Trip and a Tumble:
A Victorian Cycling Club Story
Time for a vacation —step right up! When Felix's newspaper sends him up to Victoria, B.C. to report on a visiting circus Ken inevitably tags along, "like a dutiful puppy", as Addie says. Meanwhile, Jacob's sent north to Victoria as well, as an ambassador for the cycling company he represents. Addie tells him to keep an eye on the chums, but no one ever could keep Ken and Felix from stumbling into scrapes. When a vivacious high-society belle and a surprisingly timid circus bicyclist enter the picture, things heat up quickly.
Be prepared for a grand circus pageant —let the show begin!
Buy the Book
This glossary of terms which were used in various communities in the nineteenth-century appears in Appendix III of my latest book, A Trip and a Tumble. Enjoy —and please feel free to share with your friends!
When Felix's newspaper sends him up to Victoria, B.C. to report on a visiting circus Ken inevitably tags along, "like a dutiful puppy", as Addie says. Meanwhile, Jacob's sent north to Victoria as well, as an ambassador for the cycling company he represents. Addie tells him to keep an eye on the chums, but no one ever could keep Ken and Felix from stumbling into scrapes. When a vivacious high-society belle and a surprisingly timid circus bicyclist enter the picture, things heat up quickly.
Be prepared for a grand circus pageant —let the show begin!
Bill: Poster. The word "bill" meaning "sign or poster" has somewhat fallen out of use in modern America, although it may still be seen in the familiar prohibition "POST NO BILLS" which is often seen on walls and poles in public spaces.
Boston: American. (Aboriginal trade jargon of the American Pacific Northwest and Southwestern Canada, early and mid-nineteenth century.) This term referred to any white American, regardless of his city or region of origin: to an aboriginal person in this part of the world, Yankees and Southerners alike were simply "Bostons". See also King George Man and Passaieux.
Canvas men: Rough laborers in a circus.
Celestial: Chinese. Historically the Chinese referred to China and the countries it occupied as the Celestial Kingdom or the Celestial Empire. Some modern scholars have taken umbrage with the term, but nineteenth-century Anglophones who referred to Chinese as Celestials were using a direct translation of what the Chinese called themselves at the time.
Circus mother: A matron who manages the aspects of circus life falling under women's sphere. Whereas the (male) manager supervised the business end of circus life, the circus mother managed the performers' personal affairs, acting as everything from banker, to nurse, to chaperone and wardrobe outfitter for them. Source: Thompson, W.C. On the Road With A Circus, New York: New Amsterdam Book Company, 1905. pp. 130—132.
Clallam: A tribe of American Indians living on the Olympic Peninsula, in what is now Washington state. Chief Chetzemoka was the nineteenth-century leader of the group of Clallams living in and around Port Townsend, the real city which inspired the town of Chetzemoka in this series.
Cully: Friend. (Circus jargon.) Source: Frost, Thomas. Circus Life and Circus Celebrities. London: John Child and Son, 1876, p. 309.
Dona: Lady (Circus jargon, from the Italian donna.) Source: Frost, Thomas. Circus Life and Circus Celebrities. London: John Child and Son, 1876, p. 306.
En garçon: Used in reference to married men temporarily away from their wives. (French: literally, "as a boy" or "as a bachelor".) Source: Jenkins, Edward. The Captain's Cabin. Belfast: William Mullan and Son, 1877. p. 14: "On the left is the purser's table, frequented mostly by bachelors, old and young, and by leery commercials, who are married when at home, but are travelling for the voyage en garçon—a most lively table, where…rough joke and broad story are never wanting…"
Goney: A great goose, a stupid fellow. (New England origin.) Source: Dictionary of Americanisms, Ed. John Russell Bartlett, Boston: 1877. p. 253.
Guy: Man. The very british Oxford English dictionary credits the origin of this term to effigies burned on Guy Fawkes day, but the term had a different connotation in circus culture: "Circus dialect for a man is always 'guy,' and the proprietor of the show is invariably styled 'the main guy,' or the 'main squeeze.' The former appellation is probably adapted from the fact that the main guy rope holds the tent in position." It is worth noting that "guy" was not a very common term yet for a man in the American population in general in 1885, but it was common in circus communities. It is also worth noting that nineteenth and twentieth-century Americans did not celebrate Guy Fawkes day as a culture, but they did watch a lot of circuses. Which context truly led to its adoption in America is left to the reader's judgement.
Hello: 19th-century exclamation of surprise. The term didn't become a generic greeting until after telephone use grew widespread.
Hey Rube!: A circus call for help. It orders all circus workers to drop what they're doing and rush to the aid of the person who yelled it. (Circus jargon.)
High climber: A logger (lumberman) who climbs up tall trees to cut off the limbs and tops in preparation for the rest of the tree being felled.
Hook: To steal. (Late nineteenth-century slang.) Source: Dictionary of Americanisms, Ed. John Russell Bartlett, Boston: 1877. p. 293.
Header (active form, "take a header"): A crash or fall. In the high wheel era, this term referred to any fall from a bicycle: it did not (as commonly believed) mean falling on one's head, it was simply slang for a crash. It applied equally when the unfortunate wheelman landed on his hands, his knees, or any other body part. (Similarly, we now use the term "crash" to describe any fall from a bike, even when the actual sound involved is more of a thwack, a thud, or a shriek.) Confusion about terminology led to the widely held misconception that riders who fall off high wheel bicycles frequently fall on their heads, but such a landing is actually extremely rare. In 1883 a medical doctor writing on high wheel bicycles described the actual physiology of a typical fall: "When the wheel meets with any obstruction upon the road, either unobserved by the rider or thrown by some mischievous urchin, the rider is pitched forward upon his hands and knees, in the same way as if he had stumbled while running upon his feet. This is called "taking a header." The wrist is sometimes sprained in these involuntary dismounts, but the rider is never seriously injured unless he is going at an inordinate rate of speed." In the very rare cases when someone did fall on their head —usually in the position which would now be called a "face plant"— the appropriate term was a "cropper". This phrase was borrowed from equestrianism and comes from the fallen rider landing in a position that resembles a horse cropping the grass with its teeth.
Falls in general from high wheel bicycles were far less dramatic and certainly less slapstick than farcical depictions of them in the twentieth and twenty-first century. An instructor on high wheel riding advised, "In order to avoid a fall, keep the wheel turned a very little out of the perpendicular, your hands ready to adjust the handle, and your toes lightly pressing on the pedals. If you feel that you must fall —if you cannot check your descent by gently and slightly turning the front wheel in the direction of its incline, prepare to go down as easily as possible. Put out your leg, and yielding to the inclination of the Bicycle, come down easily, and without a jerk." Note that in this description, the fall is again one towards the side of the bicycle, not over the handlebars. As the writer says, this is the natural inclination of the bicycle.
My husband Gabriel has been riding high wheel bicycles with extreme frequency for years, and his copious experience with them confirms the statements of these nineteenth-century writers. He's never even once gone over his handlebars, and the small handful of times he's fallen to the side were because I crashed into him on my own wheel, which can hardly be considered the fault of his machine.
Ink-Slinger: "One who habitually writes for publication; particularly an editor or reporter of a newspaper." (Late 19th-century slang.) Source: Dictionary of Americanisms, ibid., 1877. p. 786.
Keester: Trunk. (Circus Slang.) Source: Thompson, W.C., On the Road With a Circus, New York: New Amsterdam Book Company, 1905. p. 23.
King George / King George Man: British. (Aboriginal trade jargon of the American Pacific Northwest and Southwestern Canada, early and mid-nineteenth century.) Aboriginal trade jargon continued to designate the British this way even after Queen Victoria assumed the throne in 1838. See also Boston and Passaieux.
Klootchman: An American Indian woman, or a female animal —pejorative. (Aboriginal trade jargon of the American PNW and Southwestern Canada.) In terms of both offensiveness and meaning, the closest term familiar to modern audiences would be "squaw". This word was in fairly common usage by traders in this region (both white and native) in the mid-nineteenth-century but it was considered increasingly derogatory as time progressed. In the early days of exploration and trade, the ambiguity of a word which could refer either to a woman or a female animal was more a linguistic side-effect of the inarticulate nature of pidgin languages than it was any deliberate attempt to be offensive. However, as relationships deepened and English became the lingua franca of the region, this dual-meaning jargon word shifted from being an accepted term to being a slur.
By 1885, when A Trip and A Tumble takes place, the term was inappropriate for polite society; on the Pacific coast at the time it was considered even more offensive than squaw. The scene where Theresa calls herself a klootchman in order to shock Jacob was taken almost verbatim from an Englishman's non-fiction account of his visit to Victoria in 1887. In this autobiographical work, the Englishman meets a woman who challenges him to guess her ancestry. After he fails several times the lady laughs at him and calls himself a klootchman to scandalize him. He makes a very clear point of stating that although the woman had referred to herself by this term, she "would have been very indignant indeed if I had called her that."
Macadam: A smooth road surface favored by cyclists.
Main: Very. (Late 19th-century slang.) Source: Alger, Horatio, The Young Acrobat, New York: Hurst & Company, 1889, p. 134. "I'm main tired and hungry." / "They must have been main strong."
Mash: A crush. (Nineteenth-century slang.) Source: McIlvaine, C.W. "Censor". The Nassau Herald. Princeton College, 1878, p. 60: "Boys, you know Miss B… I took her to a cotillon one evening and got a terrible mash on her."
Missed (my) tip: Fail in an aim to do something, as when an acrobat fails in a catch. (Nineteenth-century slang.) Source: Stradling, Arthur, "A Broken Neck", Time, March, 1883, p. 360: "Almost the first part of an acrobat's education is to learn how to fall properly when he "misses his tip" —a principle which might be introduced with advantage into the course of training for some other professions."
Mosquito Fleet: A collective term for the great variety of ships that plied the waters of the greater Puget Sound region in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For more on these, see Newell, Gorden R. Ships of the Inland Sea, Portland: Binsfords & Mort, 1960. and Findlay, Jean Cammon and Robin Paterson, Mosquito Fleet of South Puget Sound, Images of America, USA: Arcadia Publishing, 2008.
Multum in parvo (M.I.P.) Literally, "much in little" (Italian.) A style of leather or canvas bag which straps to the backbone of a high-wheel bicycle behind the seat. They were especially popular for touring cyclists.
Mumble the Peg: A boy's game. "It consists in endeavoring to draw out with the teeth a peg driven almost wholly into the ground. The successful one of course wins." Source: Dictionary of Americanisms, Ed. John Russell Bartlett, Boston: 1877. p. 413.
Old horse: Especially hard and dry salt beef (Nautical slang.) In Two Years Before the Mast (1840), R.H. Dana recounts a rhyme he'd heard sailors reciting at mealtime when they came across a particularly bad piece of meat: "Old horse! Old horse! What brought you here? / From Sacarap' to Portland pier / I've carted stone this many a year; / Till, killed by blows and sore abuse, / They salted me down for sailors' use. / The sailors they do me despise: / They turn me over and damn my eyes; / Cut off my meat, and pick my bones / And pitch the rest to Davy Jones." Dana credits the euphemism (and the resulting rhyme) to a story about a beef dealer in Boston who was convicted of selling old horse meat for ship's stores and being sentenced to imprisonment until such time as he had eaten the whole of it. The story is very likely apocryphal, but it stuck.
Passaieux: French. (Aboriginal trade jargon of the American Pacific Northwest and Southwestern Canada, early and mid-nineteenth century.) See also Boston and King George Man. The spelling used here was found in James G. Swan's book The Northwest Coast (1857). Swan reports:
"Formerly the Americans had a very extensive trade of furs on the Northwest Coast, and this was carried on principally by the merchants of Boston. The Indians, hearing the name of Boston so often repeated, supposed that to be the name of the country these people and ships came from; consequently, all Americans are to this day  called by the Northwest Coast Indians Boston tillicums, or Boston people. English, Scotch, and Irish are called King George People, and the French, Passaieux. The derivation of this last term… is undoubtedly [derived from] some Canadian French patois word."
Orthography of trade jargon words varied substantially between different sources. As Swan put it, "no two writers of Indian words fully agree as to the proper method of spelling." Among many other alternatives, this word was also spelled "pasiuks"; and "pasai-ooks".
British ethnographer Horatio Hale attributes the word's origin to a mispronunciation of the French "Français" by people unable to pronounce f, r, or nasal n sounds. However, this explanation seems questionable since Swan, who lived at close quarters with Northwest tribes for a number of years, reported their extreme linguistic skills: "The Indians are very quick to detect any difference in the intonation or method of pronunciation of the whites, and sometimes think we speak different languages. An Indian asked me one day (while pointing to a cow) what was the name we called that animal. I told him cow. He said that he had just asked another white man, and he called it a caow. By this means, different Indians who have been with the whites acquire a habit of pronouncing such English words as they pick up in the same style and manner as the person from whom they learn them."
Phaeton: A light carriage. For a picture of a phaeton and other horse-drawn vehicles from the nineteenth-century, see <http://www.thisvictorianlife.com/blog/a-visit-to-the-northwest-carriage-museum>.
Potato jacket: Potato skin / peel.
Queer a pitch: Spoil a performance. (Circus jargon.) Source: Frost, Thomas. Circus Life and Circus Celebrities. London: John Child and Son, 1876, p. 307.
Razorback: A man or boy who helps load and unload circus materials. (Circus jargon.) Source: Alger, Horatio, The Young Acrobat, New York: Hurst & Company, 1889, p. 68.
Running Gear: A horse-drawn vehicle used for hauling large loads like timber. Different from a wagon in that a running gear didn't have sides. For a picture of a running gear and other horse-drawn vehicles from the nineteenth-century, see <http://www.thisvictorianlife.com/blog/a-visit-to-the-northwest-carriage-museum>.
Sacred cattle: A breed of cattle from the Indian subcontinent, popular with nineteenth-century menageries.
Sociable: A cycle for two riders with seats side-by-side. (Tandems have seats fore and aft.) A sociable has two large wheels to propel it, a smaller wheel for stabilization, and usually an additional even smaller wheel to prevent tipovers on hills. This technically makes it a quadricycle, although since the smallest wheel rarely touches the ground it is often termed a tricycle.
Tá: Is / it is / that's so. (Irish Gaelic). Irish is a somewhat unique language in not having words for "yes" or "no". Instead, questions are answered by giving the affirmative or negative form of the verb —in this case, the affirmative of "to be". Centuries of English rule have led to a dwindling number of speakers of the Irish language. A school inspector in 1884 reported that it was no longer taught (Ross, Donald. The Gaelic Journal, March, 1884, p. 95.), and in modern times the World Languages Project lists its status as Endangered. However, certain Irish words have persisted in the speech of the country. When I visited Ireland in 2000 I found it interesting to note that the word Tá still retains a sort of slang status in the twenty-first century, even amongst young urban Dubliners.
Top: Tent. (Circus jargon.)
Tyee: The highest caste in aboriginal society in the Puget Sound Region. Usually translated as "chief", it is more appropriately translated as "person of high-rank" or "titleholder". Aboriginal societies in the Pacific Northwest were stratified into three castes: titleholders, commoners, and slaves. For more on this, see Professor Leland Donald's book, Aboriginal Slavery on the Northwest Coast of North America.
Wheel: Bicycle or tricycle.
Wheelman / Wheelwoman: Cyclist.
Worth: Charles Frederick Worth, one of the 19th-century's most famous fashion designers. The idea of a show mother being "the Worth of circusland" was cribbed from Thompson, W.C. On the Road With A Circus, New York: New Amsterdam Book Company, 1905, p. 132. For more about Worth himself, see "Worth and His Dresses", The Domestic Monthly, June, 1885, p. 196. <https://tinyurl.com/y84g4lnn>.
 Thompson, On the Road With A Circus, New York: New Amsterdam Book Company, 1905, p. 23.
 Kinch, Charles A., M.D. "A Medical Symposium: The Bicycle and Tricycle for Physicians and Patients." The Wheelman. August 1883, p. 362. The full text of this article can be found at <http://tinyurl.com/hc9n8yt>.
 "A Practical Bicyclist" [Nom de plume.] The Bicycle and How to Ride It. London: Ward, Lock And Co., 1882. p. 36—37.
 Roper, Edward. By Track and Trail: A Journey Through Canada, London: W.H. Allen & Co., Ltd., 1891, pp. 243—244.
 Ibid., ch. 30.
 Swan, James G., The Northwest Coast. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1857. pp. 95—96.
 Swan, ibid, p. 308.
 Hale, Horatio. An International Idiom: A Manual of the Oregon Trade Language. London, Whittaker & Co., 1890. p. 8.
 Bryce, George. The Remarkable History of the Hudson's Bay Company. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company, 1900. p. 410.
 Swan, ibid., pp. 308—309.
In a seaport town in the late 19th-century Pacific Northwest, a group of friends find themselves drawn together —by chance, by love, and by the marvelous changes their world is undergoing. In the process, they learn that the family we choose can be just as important as the ones we're born into. Join their adventures in
The Tales of Chetzemoka
To read about the exhaustive research that goes into each book and see little vignettes from the stories, click on their "Learn More" buttons!
Author: Sarah A. Chrisman
(Known around Port Townsend as "The Victorian Lady"