by Kristin Holt, USA Today Bestselling Author
All authors in this 9-author series were instructed to include books, any way we wanted, in our Thanksgiving romances. Given my circumstances and setting in Unmistakably Yours, I ended up electing to name true-to-history titles that the Ladies' Lending Library would have actually purchased (or received as gifts to the library), and have a era-appropriate book titles within other story elements (such as Jane's gift to the Murphy boys, and Hank's not-so-appealing nickname by the town's naysayers when they refer to our hero as "Chicken Little.") [Read the book description here-- after all, our hero is FAR from an anxious biddy. He's rather intelligent and wise.]
Vintage Book One: Chicken Little
We all know "the sky is falling" and "Chicken Little"... but just how old is old? Hmmmm.... I was thrilled to find Mrs. M.E. Hall, widow of the late Salmon Hall advertising the sale of all kinds of books (even if she misspelled stationery as stationary) at her residence one door east of the Book Store formerly occupied by her late husband... as she's selling all of his remaining wares... In New Bern, North Carolina. In 1842.
|Chicken Little is for sale, along with many other still-familiar titles, in the Newbern Spectator of New Bern, North Carolina, on February 19, 1842.|
But what are the chances that this "Chicken Little" is actually of The Sky is Falling vintage? Another historical newspaper clipping, published in The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Louisiana on April 15, 1843, verifies the connection. See the transcription, below (I've taken care to maintain everything from paragraph breaks to punctuation-- quite different from today's). The original image is dark and difficult to read.
THE SKY FALLING.---The following humorous little nursery story, told by N. P. Willis, has a very ingenious and excellent point to it, showing, as a moral, how timid persons may be thrown into terror, and how there is always a "Fox Lox" ready to take advantage of their fright. Silly superstition and love of the marvellous [sic] will furnish capital to support humbug and imposture, until the end of time. Let the "Chicken Little" followers of Parson Miller look out for their "Fox Lox."
"Did you ever hear of Chicken Little, how she disturbed a whole neighborhood by her foolish alarm? Well, Chicken Little was running about in a gentleman's garden, and she ran under a rose bush, and a leaf fell on her tail; and she was dreadfully frightened, and ran away to Hen Pen. 'Oh, Hen Pen,' said she, the sky is falling!' 'Why, Chicken Little, how do you know it?' 'Oh, I heard it with my ears, I saw it with my eyes, and part of it fell on my tail.' 'Come, then,' says Hen Pen, 'let us run as fast as we can!' So they ran till they came to Duck Luck. 'Oh, Duck Luck!' says Hen Pen, 'the sky is falling!' 'Why, how do you know it?' says Duck Luck. 'Chicken Little told me.' 'Chicken Little, how do you know it?' 'I heard it with my ears, I saw it with my eyes, and part of it fell on my tail.' 'Oh, let us run,' said Duck Luck; and they went on until they came to Goose Loose.-- 'Oh, Goose Loose!' says Duck Luck-- 'the sky is falling!' 'Why, Duck Luck, how do you know it?' 'Hen Pen told me.' 'Hen Pen, how do you know it?' 'Chicken Little told me.' 'Chicken Little, how do you know it?' 'I heard it with my ears, I saw it with my eyes, and part of it fell on my tail.' 'Run! run as fast as you can,' says Goose Loose.---And away they all went until they met with Fox Lox. 'Oh! Fox Lox, the sky is falling!' 'Who told you?' says Fox Lox. 'Goose Loose told me.' 'Goose Loose, who told you?'--'Duck Luck.' 'Duck Luck, who told you?'--'Hen Pen.' 'Hen Pen, who told you?' 'Chicken Little.' 'Chicken Little, who told you?' 'I heard it with my ears, I saw it with my eyes, and part of it fell on my tail!' 'Make haste,' says Fox Lox, 'and all come into my den.' Fox Lox opened the door, and in they went, and he made a supper of them;---and all this from the foolish fright of Chicken Little."This example is common of the Victorian Era in the United States-- Newspaper stories retelling folk tales or fairy tales (all of which were not happy endings), intended to teach the morals of the day: honesty, obedience, integrity, wisdom, etc.
Here's a thumbnail image of the original clipping from 1843:
Vintage Book Two: The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. HydeNaturally, my Ladies' Library Association would want to buy the most popular new titles. I was tickled to see that The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde fit that bill. The following newspaper clipping was published in the Chicago Tribune of Chicago, Illinois on July 31, 1886... and my story opens in August of 1887. Notice the timing:
|The Chicago Tribune, July 31, 1886.|
The following newspaper clip was published in The Clay Center Dispatch of Clay Center, Kansas on June 17, 1886, illustrating the likelihood that this title would be quite available (and of interest) in Mountain Home, Colorado, that very autumn.
|The Clay Center Dispatch of Clay Center, Kansas on June 17, 1886.|
Vintage Book Three: The Adventures of Tom SawyerYipee! This well-known title was published in 1876, and though originally a commercial failure (according to wikipedia), newspapers of the decade show the title was certainly available for sale and people did buy it.
|"Adventures of Tom Sawyer" won as a prize in a spelling match. McPherson Freeman newspaper of McPherson, Kansas on August 13, 1886.|
Prize Copy of New Release: Unmistakably YoursI'm pleased to offer to one winner his/her choice of the kindle edition, standard paperback, or large print edition of the paperback (paperbacks will be awarded to winners residing within the United States only; if the winner lives in another nation, I'll substitute the kindle edition).
TO ENTER THE DRAWING:
- comment on this post
- include your thoughts about books in an Old West (Victorian / 19th Century American) novel. Here are a few sample questions to spark your ideas... No need to answer them all, but to enter, please answer at least one (or something similar that is of interest to you):
- What books have you seen mentioned?
- How do books play a role inside a story?
- If you were an author, and needed books to play a role in a book you're writing, how would you include that element?
- ONE winner will be drawn at random on Monday, October 8th at 7 PM Mountain Time and the winner's name will be posted here. Set an alarm in your cell phone so you'll remember to check back!
Kristin Holt, USA Today Bestselling Author, writes Sweet Victorian Romance set in the American West. She writes frequently about Old West history and contributes monthly to Sweet Americana Sweethearts.
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