Thursday, March 4, 2021

Surprising Victorian Multiple Births by Kristin Holt


Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births

by Kristin Holt

USA Today Bestselling Author of Sweet Romance set in the Victorian American West

Twins! Triplets!... and Octuplets!

Today's curious are tantalized by the rarity of multiple births. We love stories of families doubling in size with surprise triplets on the heels of a long-awaited adoption. Multiples are thrilling, perhaps due to the novelty.

Victorians were just as enamored with multiple bundles of joy. This following tale from an 1888 newspaper uses words like "astonished," "pleased," and without a label, 'generous.' Note the astonished shopkeeper felt the need to make a generous gift to this highly surprising family.

Have you ever heard of twelve sets of twins, born to the same mother? (Sound like a tall tale?)

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. From Clark County Republican of Ashland, Kansas, May 17, 1888: a report of a family with 24 sons born to them as 12 sets of twins.

I love this vintage cabinet card of a young mother holding her beautiful twins on her lap. By her costume and hairstyle, she's obviously a Victorian. Note the custom throughout the nineteenth century of dressing baby boys and girls alike in long white gowns. The twins might be fraternal (including one boy and one girl), yet they might well be identical--boys or girls.

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. Cabinet card photograph of Victorian mother with twin babies.
Image Credit: Pinterest

Tall Tale?

The following snippet of news claims a woman named "Maddalena Granata, of Nocera, Italy, has had fifty-two children, including triplets fifteen times."

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorain Multiple Births. From The Sunday Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on January 3, 1886: "Maddalena Granata, of Nocera, Italy, has had fifty-two children, including triplets fifteen times."

Tall tale? Nope. Maddalena Granata (born 1839) is listed, with 52 children, as fifth-highest recorded birth count worldwide. Wikipedia lists people with the most children... at least 20 each. This page does clarify (thank goodness) that numbers in bold and italics (Maddalena has both) "are likely to be legendary or inexact, some of them having been recorded before the 19th century." Okay... but Maddalena's story was the nineteenth century. The above announcement was made when Maddalena was about forty-seven. Likely done with her childbearing years, but zero guarantees. Especially for the uber fruitful. Guinness World Records 2010 (p. 111) concurs, "... the record for the most triplets is 15 sets, by Maddalena Granata (Italy, 1839-1886).

The old labor-and-delivery nurse in me can't help but notice that this poor Mrs. Granata died at age 47--the same year this announcement showed up in the States. No mention of her passing, just her amazing count of fifty-two children, including fifteen sets of triplets. I'm just going to take a wild guess here at the cause of Maddalena Granata's death...

There you have it. Fascinating stuff, these surprising stories of multiple births in America's Victorian past.

Surprise! All Three Thrived!

I'm equally surprised to see triplets, born in 1856, all lived to adulthood. That's a doubly big surprise. First of all, a high percentage of infants died due to childhood infectious diseases, illness, and accidents. If a child lived past age five, they'd have a greater probability of living to adulthood. Even today, the neonatal mortality rate of multiples is saddening.
So this mid-nineteenth century success story is heartwarming!

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. From The Semi-Weekly New Era of Lancaster, PA on January 28, 1882: A remarkable case of triplets living to twenty years of age (and beyond).


Today, most cases of quadruplets arise through fertility treatments and IVF. Yes, some women and their partners are simply very fertile. 

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. Vintage phogoraph of late Victorian family with father, mother, and eleven children. Image: Pinterest.
Image Source: Pinterest


The following image shares the interesting Victorian story of an unnamed "female" delivered of four perfect and healthy children (two male, two female) by Mr. A. Borman, surgeon accoucheur. Congratulations, 1849, for giving the doctor all the credit.

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. English Quadruplets announced on both sides of the Atlantic. From The Derby Mercury of Derby, Derbyshire, England on November 14, 1849 and The Baltimore Sun of Baltimore, Maryland on December 13, 1849.

Isn't it cool that the unnamed mother and her quadruplets made the news in the States? This sample from The Baltimore Sun wasn't the only instance of this joyful story voiced in the 1849 papers throughout the United States.

Father of Forty-One (and 200 grandchildren)

Another example comes from a Connecticut town, Killingly, where a man named Levi Bradshaw lived in the Sparks district.  This man, who'd been married three times (from age 13 on), had 41 children, 40 of whom were living in 1896.

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. From The Coffeyville Daily Journal, September 5, 1896: "Two Hundred Grandchildren: Connecticut Man Who Has Nearly a Regiment of Decendants." Father of 41 children, 40 of whom are living, married three times, each wife giving him multiple children before her death.

Now that's some serious progeny. Congratulations, Mr. Bradshaw!

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. Victorian photograph of family: father, mother, and 7 children. Image Credit: Pinterest.
Image: Pinterest

Father of 41 (with only five living)

In a comparable story, another father credited with forty-one offspring by a series of three wives, illustrates the devastating death rates in nineteenth century America. 

See the original digitized image, below. For ease in reading, I've provided a careful transcription:

--John Hepner, a German, now a resident of Reading, Pennsylvania, has lived to be called the father of more children than probably any other man in the country. He is sixty years old and has had three wives. He was first married in Germany in 1840, and his wife died in 1848. In that short time she bore him seventeen children--two pairs of twins, four sets of triplets, and one at a single birth.--Mr. Hepner married again in less than a year. He was married in the latter part of June, 1849, and in February another child was born to him, followed by a second on the following Christmas. After that his wife bore him twins five consecutive times, and three children at a single birth, making fifteen children in nine years, at the end of which time his second wife died. His two marriages covered a period of seventeen years, and yielded him thirty-two children. He had come to this country three years before the death of his second wife. He was married again shortly afterward, this time to a widow with one child. This wife is still living, and has borne Hepner nine children. Of the first set of children none are now living, and only two of the second and three of the third.

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. A Tale of a German, John Hepner, now of Reading, PA whose series of wives bore him many multiples. The Middleburgh Post of Middleburgh, PA on May 13, 1875.
Original article, transcribed above.

OTHERS with Multiple Multiples!

Bradshaws and Hepners (their stories related, above), were far from alone in the Multiple Multiples hall of fame. This story, credited to Honesdale, Pennsylvania, tells of a Mrs. Cullen traveling by train with her eleven children to join her husband. So far, not remarkable. Until we see the punch line: this woman's eleven children range in age from three years of age to nine years of age.

What woman could travel alone with eleven little ones? Luckily, the railroad was so enamored of her brood (and substantiated story) that they gave her half-price fare for all twelve in her party.

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. Eleven Children born in four births. Part 1 of 2. From The Millbrook Herald of Millbrook, Kansas, January 6, 1886.

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. Eleven Children born in four births. Part 2 of 2. From The Millbrook Herald of Millbrook, Kansas, January 6, 1886.

See what I mean about Victorians as enamored with "multiples" (especially multiple multiples)?

An Extraordinary Family Line with Many Multiples

Let's add to the Cullens, the Bradshaws, and the Hepners. This next Victorian-American story is of "Mrs. Ellsworth Miller, who holds the world's record in the matter of multiple child bearing." The extraordinary woman had just presented her husband with triplets when the article was printed in 1893. 

It seems the "world record" owned by Mrs. Miller didn't take into account some of the more fecund parents noted herein.

The newborn triplets brought the count to three sets of triplets and a total of sixteen children. Tragically, the Cold Spring, NY Special (syndicated) report discloses only seven of her children are living, including the newborn triplets.

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. Part 1 of 2. From The Kansas City Times of Kansas City, MO on March 26, 1893: The Extraordinary Record of a NY Family Line that contained many multiple births (many sets of twins and triplets).

Notice the family lineage and how every branch of Mrs. Miller's tree bore exceedingly well. Perhaps most heartbreaking of all, the report of the infants' names and staggering rate of mortality. Too many of those sweet babies "died in a year," "died in six weeks," "all three died in one month," "both died in 6 months," "died in eleven days," and occasionally, a "still living" report.

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. Part 2 of 2. From The Kansas City Times of Kansas City, MO on March 26, 1893: The Extraordinary Record of a NY Family Line that contained many multiple births (many sets of twins and triplets).


Victorian Science Explains Multiple Births

I'm fascinated by the development of scientific understanding throughout the nineteenth century. Medicine gained vast understanding in so many areas, from the Germ Theory to genetics and everything between.

Note this 1874 scientific understanding: 

... it seems to be highly probable that multiple births were more common among those who married early and early in life bore children


 ... a woman had been married upwards of 19 years before she had a child, and then she had triplets

But the statistics are pretty clear: with an increase in the mother's age, the rate of multiple births rises exponentially. Still true today.

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. 1874: "Highly Probable Causes of Multiple Births," from The Courier and Argus of Dundee, Tayside, Scotland on July 11, 1874.

In 1895, the "famous Scandinavian scientist" Dr. Drejer reported his findings: "multiple births are highest among Slavonic people and lowest in the Latin races." (Noted: Dr. Drejer's statement is one of several bits of data steeped in nineteenth century racism.) Today we cringe when viewed through our 21st century lens; in the 1890s, a representation of the standard views of the times.

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. The Times of Philadelphia, Penn on August 10, 1895, "The subject of twins has been investigated by the famous Scandinavian scientist, Dr. Drejer, and he finds that multiple births are highest among Slavonic people and lowest in the Latin races."...

Let's return to Victorian scientific explanation of multiple births--because this one is fascinating. Who knew that an 1896 statement would go farther than with Mrs. Miller's "the whole family has multiples" to state, unequivocally, "Twins Were Hereditary."

Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. "Twins Were Hereditary. Record of Eight Twins and One Set of Triplets in Five Generations." From The Boston Globe of Boston, Mass. on March 7, 1896.

The following snippet of "news," stating that multiple births were reported in 1.17 per cent of all cases appeared in dozens and dozens of newspapers across the country. A prime example of reprints--a very common practice of the times.

Statistically Speaking 

 Kristin Holt | Surprising Victorian Multiple Births. From Newton Daily Republican of Newton, Kansas, July 13, 1893: "In England, France and Germany the ratio of multiple births is thirteen twins per 1,000 and 160 triplets and eight quadruplets per 1,000,000 births."

Interestingly enough, the National Center for Health Statistics says the twin birth rate is 32.1 per 1,000 live births. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Science says the frequency of multiples has increased 70% since 1980. Wow.


What comes to mind as you read these Victorian-era newspaper clips about multiple births? Are you surprised?

Do you have family stories of twins or triplets born in the nineteenth century? What efforts did the parents make to help the children (often premature) survive?

Please scroll down and comment! Your thoughts are welcome.

By Kristin Holt

Kristin Holt | Sweet Americana Sweethearts Contributing Author

Kristin Holt | Historical Articles by USA Today Bestselling Author Kristin Holt

Copyright © 2021 Kristin Holt LC

Sayings of the Old West


Recently my nephew (who's an avid gamer) was trying to come up with a way to stump his opponents by saying off the wall things. Gamer smack talk is riddled with profanity and he didn't want to go there. So he asked how they "talked smack" in the old west. I was happy to oblige him.

The old west is full of colorful insults as is the victorian era. My daughter went to high school with some kids who loved to stump their friends with Victorian insults. Needless to say, said friends didn't have a comeback. They were too busy trying to figure out what they'd just been called or what the other person said. These boys hit their opponents with rapid fire precision in full Victorian fashion. It was hilarious to see.

The old west, on the other hand, had more earthy ways of saying things. Some we still say today. Such as the famous "She's as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs." Or how about, "He's a poor as a church mouse." I believe that one goes further back. Anyway, the Old West abounds with colorful sayings such as:

His voice sounded like someone forgot to grease the wagon.

He's lyin' like a rug.

He's so lazy molasses wouldn't run down his leg.

He's as pleased as a pup with two tails.

He's so think he could take a bath in a shotgun barrel. 

He's plumb weak north of his ears.

He couldn't track an elephant in snow!

If all his brains were dynamite, he wouldn't know enough to blow his nose.

He was as ugly as a burnt boot.

He made an ordinary fight look like a prayer meeting.

I always picture actor Jack Elam spouting old west sayings. He was in enough westerns to etch his face into my mind, spewing  one liners like the above to James Garner or whatever other actor he was working with. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Elam years ago at a Western event in Sonora, California. He was the perfect gentleman and very kind. 

 Suffice to say, my nephew was very excited to jot down a list of these expressions and arm himself for the next round of gaming. I'm sure he stumped a few of his fellow gamers. Especially if they'd never watched westerns growing up. 

Words are fun. Weaving tales with them is what I and my fellow authors do. We often have books in our research libraries on slang and other forms of speech through out history. They're fun books to go through and its even more fun to memorize some of the sayings they had back in the day to use when needed!

Until next time,



Friday, February 26, 2021

An Invention with Huge Impact—the Typewriter

In our modern age, we don’t spend much time thinking of how our lives are impacted by inventions--these days we call it new technology. In fact, some of us expect it and willingly buy the next phone upgrade. Not me—I hang onto stuff until the company no longer provides tech support and then even longer, as long as it’s still working. Case in point, I’m writing this post using a Word 2007 program.

But imagine how the lives of office workers changed following the invention and commercial production of the typewriter. Prior to the mid 1870s or early 1880s, all reports within a company were handwritten. So if you have clear and precise penmanship, your skill was prized and ensured your employment.

The first patent for a Machine for Transcribing Letters was issued in 1714 to inventor Henry Mill, but no evidence the machine was ever produced commercially exists.

For the next one hundred and fifty years, many attempts were made to develop a typing machine, most with the keys arranged like those on a piano. But no invention proved successful enough to develop it commercially.

photo by Peter Mitterhofer

In Denmark in 1865, Rev. Mailing-Hansen invented a writing ball. The keys on top pushed a short piston with the capital letter on the end down onto the paper below.

In 1868 a patent was issued to American Christopher Latham Sholes for a machine that produced capital letters only. Sholes worked with Carlos Glidden, Samuel Soule, and Frank Haven Hall. This machine was taller than it was wide, had individual keys that lifted metal bars with the letter engraved on the end to hit a ribbon that pressed against paper held by a platen. But a consistent problem was the keys jammed. The machine proved unwieldy and Sholes sold the patent. Another inventor, James Densmore, played around with the key placement to arrange them so frequent letter combinations would not jam the keys near the platen. Voila--the invention of the QWERTY keyboard that is still in use today.

Densmore contacted the Remington Arms Company (yes, the company who made guns) for assistance in manufacturing the machine improved from Sholes’ design and called it the Sholes-Glidden Type-writer. Commercial production started early in 1873.

The next innovation was called an index typewriter which used a stylus to choose a letter from an index. The letter would then be printed to paper by pulling a lever. These machines were simpler in their construction, lighter in weight, and were advertised for use by travelers. Another advantage was the ability to change the font style, a feature standard typewriters did not have.

By 1910, the typewriter was being produced by several manufacturers with only minor differences between the models.

The biggest advantage this machine brought to American society, where the main function was to transcribe handwritten material, was the ability for women to enter the workforce in large numbers.

My latest release, A Bride for Jordan, features one of those women with the ability to take shorthand and transcribe the notes via a typewriter.

BLURB: With a book deadline hanging over his head, Wyoming veterinarian Jordan Vardon needs a stenographer…fast. Tired of living where women have no legal rights, Senta Volney jumps at the chance to use her shorthand and typing skills to help a Wyoming man write a book. A marriage-of-convenience is essential for propriety’s sake. Can city girl Senta adapt to the country life? Will Jordan have the heart to end their in-name-only arrangement?

Amazon buy link

I started my work career as a typist. I still own the Smith-Corona electric typewriter I bought for my first year in college, and I use it once a year for certain government forms. How many of you have experience with typewriters? 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Look What Our Authors have Published so far This Year!











 Our authors have been busy writing and publishing books. Here is what we have published so far this year:


To Seek a Jewel (Clear Creek Brides Book 3)

By Kit Morgan

Matrons on a Mission ~ One reluctant Southern Gent ~ And a Spinster who’s given up hope …

A spinster at twenty-three, Ruby has gone beyond being a “slow starter.” She feels it once her closest friend marries. Matt has plans that don’t include marriage. Then he begins to help Ruby and her mother help a family in need….


Amata (Cupids and Cowboys Book 6)

By Linda Carroll-Bradd

Grayson’s adopted daughter is all grown up and not following Papa’s directives.

After completion of her studies at a teacher’s college, Amata Wainwright returns to her Cheyenne, Wyoming, hometown and must inform her state senator father that she didn’t earn the expected diploma. She tutors her younger brother and his friend who have dyslexia, but never planned on finding the friend’s rancher father so interesting…..


A Bride for Harland (The Proxy Brides Book 51)

By Marisa Masterson

Renie Hunter gladly accepts Harland McGregor's proposal before he leaves to join the Army of the West. Two years pass before he finally sends for her. Her uncle insists the young couple marry by proxy. But the husband Renie meets is different from the sweetheart she remembers.


A Bride for Alston (The Proxy Brides Volume 53)

By Kimberly Grist

A potter in need of a home, a businessman thirsty for the inheritance his marriage will bring; and a proxy marriage that will mold and reshape them both.

Left out of the will, Elly’s pottery sales keep her brother’s farm going, but her sister-in-law wants her gone. Alston Pike focused on growing his business, but needs a wife so his grandmother will release his inheritance early.


A Bride for Jordan (The Proxy Brides Book 54)

By Linda Carroll-Bradd

With a book deadline hanging over his head, Wyoming veterinarian Jordan Vardon needs a stenographer. A marriage-of-convenience is essential for propriety’s sake. He’s planning on a six-month commitment to get his book written and then file for annulment.


Kate’s Railroad Chef (Train Wreck in Jubilee Springs Book 3)

By Zina Abbott

Kate travels by train to Jubilee Springs to be a mail order bride only to discover her intended has fallen in love with another woman. Garland, a ticket agent left in charge of the station, rescues her from the train wreck. He’s drawn to her, but knows with his stuttering problem, finding a wife will be almost impossible. Instead, he pursues his dream of becoming a chef. Will Kate find a loving husband and can Garland achieve all he desires?


Lilac Bride: Sweet Western Romance (Holiday Brides Book 4)

By Shanna Hatfield

When wedding plans go awry, wily matchmakers come to the rescue . . .

Katherine Kelly has been dreaming of her wedding since she was old enough to cut pictures out of magazines and glue them into her bridal binder. When Kaden, the handsome cowboy who holds her heart, proposes on a snowy Christmas Eve, she couldn’t envision anything more perfect or romantic…. Then, in a blink, her carefully formed plans begin to rapidly unravel….


Not all our authors offer their books on preorder. For those who do, these early sales go a long way toward boosting their sales ranking on Amazon. 
Please consider ordering books from your favorite authors before they are released.

Preorders for March:


Mail Order Tamsyn (Secret Baby Dilemma Book 7)

By Marisa Masterson

Tamsyn Glasson has a secret. Hopefully, the man who invited her west will marry her before he discovers it. Otherwise, where will she go?

Releases March 12, 2021


Mail Order Blythe (Secret Baby Dilemma Book 8)

By Zina Abbott

Blythe worked as a maid for a Chicago family until the lecherous son returned home. Becoming a mail order bride provides her best option for escaping his unwanted attention, but she soon realizes she did not escape soon enough. The sergeant stationed at Fort Steele in Wyoming is her last hope, but he must get permission to marry from his commanding officer first…. Jeb, a Union Pacific special agent newly assigned to western Wyoming, meets Blythe in Omaha. Following his boss’s orders, he escorts her to Rawlins close by the fort and asked her to keep a watch for and report to him anything suspicious—at least until her marriage to the soldier.

Releases March 19, 2021


Preorders for April:


Cole (Cupids & Cowboys Book 8)

By Zina Abbott

Once Cole reached adulthood, he found work on a local cattle ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. Now in his mid-twenties and living in a region where men still significantly outnumber women, he doesn’t give much thought to the prospect of marriage and family. Then again, he does not take into account one Lucy Barker who, at seven years of age, feels it is her mission to see her sister, Amelia, married to someone Lucy thinks is handsome and will be a good brother for her.

Releases April 1, 2021


A Quilter for Quint (Mail-Order Mama Series Book 2)

By Linda Carroll-Bradd

Daydreamer Melisande Avenelle wishes all the social engagements her mother insists on would just disappear so she can focus on her quilt making….Widower Quinton Aznar has a six-year-old son who wants a mama….The telegram announcing the arrival of his mail-order bride—a woman his mother corresponded with—on the next stagecoach is a shock.

Releases April 2, 2021


Sookie's Silence (Westward Home and Hearts Mail-Order Brides Book16)

By Marisa Masterson

The accident that kills her parents leaves Sookie Donaldson mute. She grasps at the chance to be a mail-order bride. The only catch is that she must also be able to teach school….Will her surly groom send her back on the first train east when he realizes Sookie is silent? And who is the man who shadows her every movement in her new hometown?

Releases April 13, 2021


A Baker for Bear (Mail-Order Mama Series Book 6)

By Kimberly Grist

A woman longing for a family, two young girls in need of a mother, and a farrier determined never to marry again, can a matchmaking agency help two independent people recognize their hearts' opposing desire?

Releases April 16. 2021  


A Lawyer for Linton (Mail-Order Mama Series Book 8)

By Zina Abbott

Samantha, recently graduated from law school, is aware legal opportunities are limited for women….entering into a business partnership with an established attorney is her best option….She is thrilled with the advertisement from an attorney seeking a partner….Linton has a growing law practice but as a widower with two young daughters, he needs help. Hoping to attract a woman of intelligence, he draws on his legal training and uses a play on words in his advertisements.

Releases April 23, 2021


Dalton’s Dual Brides (Matchmaker’s Mix-Up Book 8)

By Annee Jones

A naughty cat…a mixed-up matchmaker…an outlaw’s ghost…and now dueling brides - what’s a cowboy to do?

Releases April 30, 2021

Preorders for May:


Tess (Prairie Roses Collection Book 9)

By Annee Jones

A betrayal...a secret baby….an unknown imposter…will Tess survive the wagon train journey to Sunset Hills, Oregon after her life is threatened? And if so, what will she do once she gets there?

Releases May 4, 2021


Preorders for June:


A Caregiver for Cash (Mail-Order Mama Series Book 18)

by Annee Jones

A widowed controlling father….a blind but rebellious daughter….can caregiver Eliza Abraham help this family before tragedy occurs?

Releases June 18, 2021