Thursday, May 26, 2022

Practical and Pretty - A Short History of Hair Combs by Jo-Ann Roberts


I've discovered a few trends in my writing over the past five years. The majority of my tropes are second-chance romances; I write mostly as a pantster (loosely translated means I'm a person who writes by "the seat of her pants' as opposed to a plotter, or one who outlines her writing); and my heroes always, always insist on courting their ladies. So, when my hero--Lucas Harmon--in my Love Train release, 'Ainsley' sees a pair of hair combs with blue-colored stones reminding him of Ainsely's eyes, he knows they'd make the perfect courting gift.

While researching hair combs, I learned these fashion accessories date from earliest times and were created from wood, bones, ivory, feathers, and other natural materials. Sometimes they were embellished with gems or painted with designs. At first, they were flat in construction, but over time they evolved into curved pieces to better fit the shape of women's heads.

During the Victorian era, decorative combs came in handy for pinning into place the false hair needed to achieve the illusion of abundant tresses. By the Civil War, mass manufacturing meant the combs were often adorned with paste jewels, making them within the reach of almost every pocketbook. Large, straight combs, many in graceful fan shapes were the centerpiece, accompanied by smaller side and curved back combs. In coiffure lingo, four teeth or more made a comb a comb. Three teeth qualified as a "hair ornament", while two marked it as a "hair pin".  
Hair combs were one of the key items used to adorn women's coiffures and helped them achieve the popular upswept hairdos of the times. Their importance was noted in the 1862 edition of Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine.

"The hair is rolled over a cushion in front, and arranged in a waterfall at the back, round which is twisted a heavy plait. The comb is of black velvet and gilt. The coiffure is composed of a black barbe and lilies of the valley. 

Plaits and puffs are also arranged with these combs in endless variety. When worn in the daytime, these small combs are made of light tortoise shell, with a row of small pearls. For the evening they are made of gold, either plain or studded with pearls, coral, steel, gilt, or even precious stones..."


Yet, the same publication encouraged readers to make their own.

"Fancy combs are still the rage, and very economical ones may be made by cutting a fancy design out of cardboard, such as knots, bows, linked rings, etc., and covering them with gilt, steel, or jet beads, and fastening them on a small plain comb." 

Types of Hair Combs

Initially, combs were widely made of steel, gilt metal, brass, and other types of metals. 


Tortoise shell has been used since ancient times. Its popularity began with the trend of the Spanish mantilla and would remain until it became scarce, being replaced by gutta-percha.


Although tortoiseshell and gutta-percha were popular, the most plentiful and popular material for hair combs throughout the 19th century was probably horn--partly because it was easy to find and cheaper than tortoiseshell. It was also extremely flexible, acting almost like plastic that could be easily cut, bent, stretched, pierced, or carved. Horn also easily lent itself to imitating the popular tortoiseshell pattern.

Decorative hair combs of the 19th century ranged from Gothic and Renaissance styles to Napoleonic and Oriental designs. Materials used to create combs also changed so quickly as the styles and what was popular one day was out of fashion the next.

Still...I'd like to believe that Ainsley will love the set of hair combs not only because they are beautiful but because Lucas gave them to her along with his love.

Ainsley - Book 8
Available for Pre-Order June 1st

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Let's take a Ride

 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Photo Property of the Author
Stagecoach Tracks through the Grasslands

Imagine you are in Trinidad, Colorado. You are tired of walking and wish for a change. You decide to take a Streetcar. As you travel on this horse/mule-drawn car, perhaps you see Marshal Masterson as he goes about his business. The year is 1882 and the Trinidad Street Railway Company was founded that same year.

Perhaps Dolores Baca, who, along with her husband Felipe, donated land to create the town of Trinidad, is outside her home on the Plaza. The location was perfect. The Sante Fe Trail ran through the land. Soon the wagons bound for Santa Fe were replaced by trains. Sheep gave way to cattle and then when coal was found nearby the city was on its way.

In the course of its history, many famous people came through the area. In 1872, Sister Blandina arrived to teach the poor in the area before she was sent on to Santa Fe in 1877.

To have a Street Railway Company was a sign that an area had the population to support such an endeavor. 

At the same time, the area was still a frontier town.

USGS Photo of Fishers Peak, 
West of Trinidad, CO

These types of research fuel my imagination and make my writing so much fun. The wonderful 'What If' of storytelling. I can see my young protagonist taking in the wonders of the area.

This is what I did when I told the story of Grant and Hetty in "The Outlaws Letter". Not only does it help add authenticity to the story, but I was also able to share things about my adopted state that fascinate me.

Below is a short excerpt from that story on just that subject of sharing bits of history. In this case the town of Canon City.


 Pulling up about a hundred yards away from the prison wall, Hetty climbed down from the wagon, walking slowly forward. She took in the wall, built by the inmates she had been told, the three-story stone building where the prisoners were housed. There were men in the yard, their striped clothing marking them as criminals, along with armed guards watching them.

How did Grant survive? Hetty thought. To be confined, having to live by someone else's schedule. All these thoughts tumbled through Hetty's mind. She wasn't sure she'd ever understand. At the same time, she was thankful Grant had kept that concern for others. Where would she be now if he'd become hardened, jaded with the world, from having spent time behind these walls? What of Maude's husband? How would his time here change him?

Turning away, Hetty returned to the wagon where Maude and Clover waited.

"Thank you," Hetty began, "I know—"

"Don't ya let it bother ya," Maude interrupted. "My husband only has a few more months. Moved here ta be close jest in case—" Maude paused, then smiled. "In the meantime, I've my memories."

Hetty watched Maude as her eyes became unfocused, a smile on her face. Would she ever have that kind of joy with Grant? For that matter would she ever see him again?

Post (c) Doris McCraw 2022 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Cowboy Sayings - Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away

“The cook is serving fresh biscuits and gravy this morning? I’ll be there. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.”

In the United States, horses are not an indigenous creature. They were brought here by the Spanish and English as they colonized the Americas. As time went on, people let their horses free for a plethora of reasons—they couldn’t keep them or they just got free. Once free, the horses found each other, formed herds, and bred, and over time, became feral and untamed by humans. Out west, when a cowboy decided he needed a new horse, he could choose to catch one.

Typically, they did that by lassoing a horse and then wrestling with it around a post or tree, or tied to another horse. The wild horse would fight the rope for a time, pulling and dragging the cowboy until he could manage to get that rope around a tree or other object. Regardless, wild horses had a reputation for pulling, and sometimes, a cowboy would get dragged for a bit.

So, wild horses had a reputation for pulling and dragging even the best of cowboys. This saying plays into that picture for the cowboy. What he means is: nothing could stop him from doing “the thing” because he is very determined.

Have you ever heard this saying before? Used it yourself? Could you see yourself using it now? Let me know in a comment!

On average, P. Creeden releases a story each month. Interested in learning more? 
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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Teething Pegs


When I was working on my recently released sweet romance Henley, there is a scene where an anxious first-time mother takes her fussy baby to visit the doctor (who happens to be the hero). 

Doctor Evan quickly surmises the baby is teething and tells the mother to ...

That's where I had to stop and do some research. 

The year is 1885. I wasn't certain how they'd handle teething then. 

According to my trusty Sears & Roebuck Catalog from 1897, they had products available to help with teething troubles. 

So, I started digging further back to see what I could find. 

And I happened upon these fascinating teething pegs. 

Apparently, ivory teething pegs were popular in the Victorian and Edwardian eras before plastic options were introduced. 

The pegs both soothed and amused a baby battling sore gums as teeth emerged. 

This particular set of teething pegs features eight different designs, attached to a piece of lace that could be tied to the baby's clothes to keep the pegs close (and the pegs from being swallowed!). 

The designs of these particular pegs include a saw with a serrated edge, a hammer, a cricket bat, a toothbrush, and one that almost looks like a pair of tweezers or pliers. 

Babies who had these lovely pegs to gnaw on and play with were far more fortunate than others. 

From ancient times, there have been any number of ghastly methods applied to teething babies from leeches to smearing the gums with smashed animal brains. 

Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup packed a wallop since the main ingredient was morphine!

Coral was a preferred substance for a time. A coral teether often looked like a rattle with the coral as a stick attached at one end, with silver bells on the other. I can almost guarantee if my baby nephew had this form of teether, he'd either brain himself or his brother with it!

Some mothers used a ring of "India rubber" to attempt to soothe tender gums. Those without funds for "luxuries" may have done nothing more than rub the gum with a finger. There is mention of using licorice root, orris root, dry crusts of bread and wax candles for teething. 

Since the doctor in my story is a good, kind doctor and not some loony quack, I have him give the mother a set of teething pegs. 

Babies (and their parents!) today are fortunate to have so many safe and soothing options to help through the trials of teething. 

Love is a gamble, and heartbreak is a risk she’s willing to take.

Despite her dreams to set down roots, Henley Jones has never had a place to call home. She’s spent her life on riverboats and railroad cars, tagging along with her gambling father. A shoot-out during a card game results in his death, leaving Henley alone and nearly penniless. Out of luck and options, Henley agrees to travel across the country to the newly established town of Holiday, Oregon, to marry a stranger.

A demanding practice in a town clawing its way to respectability keeps Doctor Evan Holt rushing at a hectic pace. He’s far too busy to see to pressing matters like hiring competent help or finding a wife. When one of his patients orders a mail-order bride, Evan can’t decide if the man is crazy or brilliant. From the moment he meets her, Evan battles an unreasonable attraction to the beautiful, charming woman who seems to be hiding something from her past.

In a town flush with possibilities, will taking a chance on love end with heartache or a winning hand?

 Find out in this sweet western romance full of humor, hope, and love.

Read more about Doctor Evan in Henley.

Connect with Shanna online at her website.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Stage Coach Travel- The Passenger's Experience- By Kimberly Grist


Happy Book Birthday to the Mail-Order Mama Book Series! I had so much fun writing and reading these books, where the bride arrives by stagecoach, not knowing that the person sending for "Mama' is not the groom. Here's a look back at some fun facts about stagecoach travel with photos from the movie that made John Wayne famous and elevated the genre's popularity with artistic heights! Stagecoach (1939)

A Stagecoach traveled an average speed of about five miles per hour, covering approximately sixty to seventy miles per day.

A stage could hold nine passengers inside and more on the roof. In good weather, the position next to the driver was preferred by most male passengers. This seat was not on a first-come, first-serve basis, but rather permission could only be granted by the stagecoach driver.

Stagecoach Robberies
Stagecoach robberies were frequent occurrences across the frontier. Highwaymen would typically select a site where the stage would have to slow down and approach with guns drawn.

John Boessenecker’s book Shotguns and Stagecoaches, claims that Wells Fargo’s stagecoaches were robbed nearly 350 times between 1870 and 1884.
Types of Service
Some companies had three classes of service
First Class rode all the way.
Second Class had to get out and walk on steep slopes.
Third Class had to walk and push. Stage Stops

As the stage driver neared the station, he or she would blow a bugle or trumpet to alert the station staff of the impending arrival. Prior to my research, I don't recall learning of a bugle announcing the arrival of the stage, but I could certainly imagine the excitement of a small town, anxious to receive mail, supplies, or perhaps a visitor. The photo below is from the musical, "The Music Man," as the town welcomes The Wells Fargo Wagon.

According to the late Mr. Walter Oatts of Austin, whose father was the postmaster at Brushy, the driver of the stage would blow his horn when the stage was about a mile away. When the horn sounded almost everyone in the vicinity would trudge up the hill to the Inn to be on hand when the stage came into town. Mr. Oatts also mentioned that "the arrival of the stage was heralded by the honks from a large flock of geese owned by the inn." The inn boasted every bedroom had its own feather beds.

Please pardon the pun, but after reading this post, my imagination took flight. What better way to greet my shy bride, than a reluctant groom and a gaggle of geese?

A Baker For Bear is Available to read at a Special Price of 99 cents
A debutante with a stammer, a compulsive widowed blacksmith with two young daughters. Will they find a way to coexist or even better, forge a romantic partnership?

Fanos of historical romance set in the late 19th -century will enjoy stories combining, History, Humor, and Romance, emphasizing Faith, Friends, and Good Clean Fun.

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Monday, May 9, 2022

Humboldt River by Zina Abbott


The Humboldt River is a river drainage system located in north-central Nevada. 


Pond along far upper Humboldt River adjacent to Elko County Rt 754 near Wells, Nevada

It extends in a general east-to-west direction from its headwaters in the Jarbidge, Independence, and Ruby Mountains in Elko County, to its terminus in the Humboldt Sink in northwest Churchill County.  


Humboldt Wells, the source of the Humboldt River

The river begins north of Wells (originally named Humboldt Wells). Although there are rivers and creeks that feed the river, the actual river itself starts at Humboldt Wells. From there, it runs west to the town of Lovelock. That makes it the longest river in America that begins and ends within the area of one state.

View from Nevada State Route 230 (Starr Valley Road) in Deeth, ctsy Famartin

Most estimates put the Humboldt River at 300 (480 km) miles to 330 (530 km) miles long. The meandering brings it closer to 380 miles. It is located within the Great Basin Watershed.

 The Humboldt River is the third longest river in the watershed behind the Bear River at 355 miles (570 km) and the Sevier River at 325 miles (523 km). The Humboldt River Basin is the largest sub-basin of the Great Basin encompassing an area of 16,840 square miles (43,615 km2). It is the only major river system wholly contained within the state of Nevada.

 View from Nevada State Route 789 near Golconda, Nevada

I found an interesting article in a Elko, Nevada, newspaper about a presentation given at the California Trail Center by Tim Burns, Nevada Outdoor School education program technician, on May 2, 2018. Much of the following information comes from that article.

View southwest along from the 9th Street Footbridge in downtown Elko, NV

The Humboldt River might be a tiny trickle by August, but it is the longest waterway running within a single state in the United States. The length doesn’t count the Humboldt’s meandering ways. It meanders in a serpentine course, causing the river to run more than twice its as-the-crow-flies distance.

Before the great westward migration, the first inhabitants of the Great Basin made use of the river later known as the Humboldt for millennia. Unfortunately, only stories survive to tell us about the original condition of the valley. One of those is a hint from John C. Fremont’s report of his 1845 exploration. He described the valley as being beautifully covered with blue grass, herb grass, clover and other nutritious grasses and that scattered cottonwood trees grew along the stream banks.

Burns went on to explain that the valley did not stay green for long once the first American explorers started visiting the area.

“The first white men to explore the valley were the members of Peter Skene Ogden’s 1828 expedition,” Burns said. “The river was originally named Paul’s River and Mary’s River.”

Alexander von Humboldt
Ogden was sent to explore the river by Hudson’s Bay Company, a fur business. His team was sent to create a “fur desert,” or to kill as many beavers as possible to cut the supply for their rivals. Beaver damns declined, as did the natural course and management of the river.

Other explorers went in search of the Bonaventura River that was rumored to be a huge river that flowed from the Rocky Mountains to the ocean. It was believed this river was as large as the Mississippi. Although a myth, explorers and those migrating west expected more than what they discovered. It was the 1845 U.S. mapping expedition under John C. Fremont that disproved these rumors once and for all. He named this river after a German naturalist named Alexander von Humboldt. Mr. Humboldt never saw the river that bore his name.

Later, people made their way west, they had to follow this waterway to survive. Nevertheless, many of them did not regard it highly. The following are some quotes by those who traveled the California Trail along the Humboldt River:

Railroad bridges over the Humboldt River near Hunter, NV

In 1849, Reuben Cole Shaw wrote: “The Humboldt is not good for man nor beast and there is not timber enough in three hundred miles of its desolate valley to make a snuff box, or sufficient vegetation along its banks to shade a rabbit, while its waters contain the alkali to make soap for a nation.”

In 1852 a man named Gilbert L. Cole wrote: “For about 10 days the only water we had was obtained in the pools by which we’d camp. These pools were stagnant and their edges invariably lined with dead cattle that had died trying to get a drink. Selecting a carcass that was solid enough to hold us up we would walk into the pool taking a blanket with us which we would wash around and get as full of water as it would hold, then carry it ashore where two men, one holding each end, would twist the filthy water out into a pan, which would, in turn, be emptied into our canteens.”

In 1850, Margaret Frank said about the Humboldt Sink: “This is the end of the most miserable river on the face of the Earth.”

 View down the Humboldt River from Interstate 80 northeast of Lovelock, NV ctsy Famartin

A man named Addison Crane in 1852 was inspired enough to write a poem about the Humboldt River:

Farewell to thee, thou stinking, turbid stream,

Amid who’s waters frogs and serpents glean.

Thou putrid mass of filth, farewell forever,

For here again I’ll tempt my fortunes never.

Lakes Lahontan and Lake Bonneville

Mr. Burns explained that the reason the river’s water is so bitter is because it is filled with alkali left over from ancient Lake Bonneville, of which the Great Salt Lake is a remnant.

Said Ted Burns:

      “At one point, the Humboldt River Valley was only inhabited by a few hundred people who never stayed for extended periods of time in any one place,” Burns said. “Then tens of thousands of wagons passed through the valley in the 1840s. Tens of thousands of oxen, mules and horses ate the grass growing along the riverbanks. Tens of thousands of wagon parties chopped down trees to repair their wagons or make their campfires. Tens of thousands of thirsty people and animals drained the river when the water level was at its lowest. Without the plants to filter out the river, the water became even more soapy and bitter. The immigrants were complaining about a problem they created.”

Humboldt River drawing by Daniel A. Jenks whose party reached river on July 22, 1859

          Based on the information I found, in my book Pearl, I wrote the following about Michael and his two employees as, in 1858, they approached the end of the Humboldt River, not too many miles before the river dries up in the Humboldt Sink. As bad as it was in the early 1850s, it did not improve as wagon trains continued to follow its banks to California. Here is the excerpt:

Will shook his head as he set down another bucket next to the water barrel. “This has got to be the nastiest-tasting water I’ve ever had the misfortune to drink. It’s so alkaline, it’s almost like swallowing liquid soap.”

          “You’re right about that.” Michael squinted into the setting sun. “They say this river is getting worse and worse every year. With so many people traveling its banks to reach California, they’re using what few trees grow here for fires, leaving less available firewood. The cattle are eating the plants that grow along the banks, so there’s almost nothing left to help filter out all the salt.”

          “Cottonwood don’t make the best firewood, anyway.” Jeremy, who had followed behind his friend by only a few steps, also set down his bucket. “Most of this scrub brush around here don’t burn all that well, either.”

          “Never thought I’d see the day I missed having buffalo chips to use for fires,” Michael sighed. “I’ll have to admit, I admire these ladies for having everything set up for cooking so they can get as much done quickly with what little fuel we’re able to gather.”

          “Where are we again, Boss?” Jeremy looked around their camping area.

          “I think this is called French Ford, although I’m not sure you’d call it a place. There’s a Frenchman who runs a ferry here, though.”

          “If the river gets much lower, people can walk across and won’t need no ferry.” Will pointed toward a trail leading to the river. Next to the bank, a wooden raft was tied to a pole set several feet inland.

          “We won’t travel much farther before this river ends in a sink. At that point, the forty miles of nothing but heat, sand, and misery begins.” Michael inhaled deeply and shook his head. “That’s where we’ll face the real challenge, men. We have these women and children to get safely across, and it won’t be a pleasure stroll.”



Pearl, Book 16 in the Prairie Roses Collection is now available. To find the book description and link, please CLICK HERE.






State Historic Marker No. 45, Nevada State Park System