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Friday, 11 September 2009

Coattails of Time

By Helen

A few lifetimes ago, in the state of Maine, in the land of America, there lived the son of a preacher man and the daughter of a sea captain.

William was born in 1817, and Abby in 1816. James Monroe was president.

Clement Moore, in 1822, wrote, "'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house..."

In 1827, the first railroad in the United States was built in Quincy, Massachusetts.

In 1830, one man's reaction to the railroad was thus:

"I can see what will be the effect of it, that it will set the whole world a-gadding Twenty miles an hour, sir! Why you will not be able to keep an apprentice boy at his work! Every Saturday evening he must have a trip to Ohio to spend a Sunday with his sweetheart. Grave plodding citizens will be flying about like comets.”

The man, as quoted by Seymour Dunbar in A History of Travel in America, ends his tirade with, "None of your hop skip and jump whimsies for me!"

1830: The first bars of soap of a standard weight and individually wrapped were processed by Jessie Oakley. Before this, soap had been sent to grocers in large blocks from which pieces were cut as they were sold.

The Great Moon Hoax of 1835, printed in the New York Sun magazine reported that Sir John Herschel had been able to see the moon through a new type of powerful telescope and could see life on the moon. Trees, vegetation, oceans and beaches, bison and goats and winged men resembling bats. The four installments of the life he had been able to see on the moon increased the paper's circulation to 15,000 daily, and one missionary society resolved to send missionaries to the moon to convert and civilize the bat men.

1836: Remember the Alamo, and Alabama was the first state in the USA to declare Christmas a legal holiday.

On February 9, 1841, William and Abby were married. Abby, by then, was a school teacher and William, with the help and encouragement of Abby's brother who was a doctor, became a doctor himself. William persuaded Abby to share his fortunes in the far off land beyond the Mississippi. John Tyler, of the famous campaign slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" was president.

(Five years after Tyler left the White House he was so poor he could not pay a bill of $1.25 until after his corn was harvested.)

William and Abby, in all likelihood, began their journey from Maine to Iowa, where they settled, first by way of ship from Maine to New York.

In Albany, New York, a packet boat carried them via the Erie Canal to Buffalo, New York, a distance of 362 miles.

The Erie Canal was dubbed, in the beginning, “Clinton's Ditch” (Clinton was Governor of New York at the time). Flat-bottomed boats were pulled by horses or mules along a tow path at the speed of four miles an hour. The fare, including board, was a penny and a half per person per day, and took six tedious days to complete.

A crimson curtain was lowered in the evening separating the men's and woman's sleeping quarters. Nathaniel Hawthorne, who once traveled on the Erie Canal, noted that the people who were the most quiet by day, snored the loudest at night.

Passengers either loved the adventure, meeting new people with stories to tell, or they became so bored by the endless journey that they took to throwing apples at poor hapless ducks.

The trip may have continued across Lake Erie to Michigan. It may have taken as long as a month to get from Maine to Detroit, Michigan.

If they crossed Michigan by stagecoach, it would have taken five to six “hard-traveling days, stopping at inns for food and lodging (25 cents a night, three to a bed), probably followed the Indian trail known as the Sauk Trail. Sometimes the stagecoaches got stuck in mud holes and had to have help from people who lived near by.

One enterprising tavern owner listed his land for sale noting it had a profitable income from a “good size” mud hole, that in times of dry weather the owner made sure it did not get filled in.

William and Abby stopped in Madison, Illinois, where Abby gave birth to their first child.

William became the first doctor in Lowell, Iowa, where the couple settled.

July 5, 1841: Thomas Cook opened the first travel agency.

The state of Massachusetts, in 1842, passed a law that limited children under 12 who worked in factories to a ten hour day.

1842: The first gummed postage stamps brought changes in the postal system as senders, rather than receivers, began paying for a letter to be delivered.

1843, April 3: A comet in the night sky led William Miller and his 50,000 New York religious cult, the Millerites, to proclaim the end of the world. They put on white robes and prepared to go to heaven from their rooftops. When nothing happened, Miller concluded that he had made a mistake.

In 1844, the first private bathtubs appeared in a New York hotel. A year later, bathtubs were still prohibited in Boston except when prescribed by a physician.

William and Abby moved to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, where they welcomed a daughter into their world in December of 1845.

1845: The style of button-fly pants was introduced to the U.S. "despite protests from the religious community who saw the flap as s license to sin.

The gold rush, January 11, 1849: The New York Herald reported that the stories of gold in California had "set the public mind almost on the highway to insanity."

Scores of people, some from all parts of the world, passed through Iowa, the newspapers announcing their arrival: "The Chinese are Coming.” "More than 500 Swedish and Norwegian emigrants passed through the city last evening, destined for the west." Etc.

Steam ferry boats that boasted of a double engine, two boilers and a doctor. Cocaine toothache drops and "the safest and most pleasant preparation of opium, dose - one-half to one fluid drachum in water or syrup every hour until sleep is produced.

Doctor William was busy riding out with his horse and buggy to save people who had been stepped on by their horse, or who needed help in rescuing someone who had fallen down a well, or became ill. Abby helped other women in the town with “The Woman's Reading Circle.”

A severe economic depression in the United States that lasted three years, began in August of 1857, when a ship full of gold lost its battle with a hurricane and sank to the bottom of the ocean. It became impossible for the banks to gather all the gold their customers demanded and soon, all across the nation, banks began to collapse.

Andrew Johnson, President: “Who says you have to go to school in order to be president?” He never attended a single day of classes.

William volunteered his services as a surgeon during the Civil War and Abby helped out at home rolling bandages and helped to gather blankets and food for the men.

A song written and sung by Tony Pastor titled, 100 Years Hence. Later in the song:

Abe Lincoln is going it with a strong hand,
But still he's our ruler, and by him we'll stand:
Let us hope in the end he may prove he has sense
For he'll be forgotten a hundred years hence.

1865: The potato chip was introduced to the U.S. by a Negro chef.

1868: A new machine called the typewriter was assigned patent no. 79265, conceived by Christopher Sholes in 1867. To test the typewriter for efficiency, his friend, Charles Weller created the sentence, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the country."

1870: The first child of William and Abby marries.

A tonic made of tomatoes was popular for curing diarrhea in the late 1800s. The tonic is still around today and is called ketchup.

1876, June: Custer's Last Stand.

Des Moines, Iowa newspaper March 1877: Our Cancer Treatment:

“After many years of study and experiment, a preparation has been discovered which we have used in numerous cases with unvarying success. For years we have not lost a single case, nor have our patients had any symptoms of a return of the disease. Cancer is a disease in which person treatment is absolutely necessary. Usually a visit of two or three weeks to our room suffices for a cure. Drs. Lengel & Yearick, office No. 111-1/2 Main street, Burlington, Iowa.”

Sept 10, 1874: Mrs. Amelia Write, of Muscatine, has been taken to the asylum for the insane at Mount Pleasant, her insanity being caused by the free use of patent "hair restoratives." We always knew something would hairpin to women for the way they mess with their hair.

1876: The telephone was considered a novelty. In  1879, the first telephone line went up.

1878: A Constitutional amendment to give women the right to vote was rejected by Congress.

1879: Thomas Edison invented the first, practical, incandescent electric light at Menlo Park, New Jersey.

Cocaine was sold to cure sore throat, neuralgia, nervousness, headache, colds and sleeplessness in 1880.

Animal Crackers are not really crackers, but cookies that were imported the the United States from England in the late 1800s. Barnum's circus-like boxes were designed with a string handle so that they could be hung on a Christmas tree.

P.T. Barnum visited with the aging William and Abby in their home, and probably patted the heads of their grandchildren.

Abby passed away in her 75th year.

Four years later, Abby met William at the gates of eternity, where together they reside still.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


So....whatever happened to Lengel and Yearick?

Fascinating story!

Helen - Good grief! There's enough material here for a new trivia game! I wish the 1842 gummed postage stamp had never happened. If we receivers of mail had to pay the postage, think of all the junk mail we wouldn't get!

Are William and Abbey your ancestors?

Great stuff! - Sandy

1818: A Philadelphia shoemaker is the first to design shoes for the right and left feet.

1847: June 22, the first doughnut with a hole is created.

1852 December 29: Emma Snodgrass is arrested for wearing pants in Boston.

We live through history unaware of the effects it will have in the future.

Thank you for your comments, it was a fun story to write.

Sept 10, 1874: Mrs. Amelia Write, of Muscatine, has been taken to the asylum for the insane at Mount Pleasant"

Say, is this what they call an oxymoron?

Loved the piece, Helen especially the part about the guy making shoes for both the right and left feet. Up until then, OUCH!

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