Tuesday, December 10, 2019

How 19th Century Advertising Shaped Christmas Traditions by Kimberly Grist

Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book was an American women's magazine published in Philadelphia from 1830 to 1870 and played an important part in shaping the cultural customs of the 19th century.

Sarah Josepha Hale, author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” was the editor from 1837 until 1877. When Hale started at Godey's, the magazine had a circulation of ten thousand subscribers. 

By 1860 it had 150,000 subscribers and was the most popular journal of its day. Hale used her influence to advocate for the establishment of a national Thanksgiving Holiday and other various causes including advocating for the education of women.
Best known for the fashion plate that appeared at the start of each issue, other articles and editorials helped shape many of the traditions practiced by American families today.

The above picture was based on an image of Queen Victoria and her decorated Christmas tree previously published in The Illustrated London News in December 1848. 

A revised version was copied in Godley's in 1850 and removed what was referred to as royal trappings from Victoria's tiara and Prince Albert's mustache to remake the picture into an American scene. It was the first widely circulated picture of a decorated evergreen Christmas tree in America and was reprinted in 1860. By the 1870s, a Christmas tree was common in the United States.

Appearing in the December 1890 issue in Godey's Lady's Book, Hale wrote. At no time in all the year is the heart so filled with joy, or the home so replete with genuine home love and home feeling as during the time that leads us up to the holiday season. Christmas Day is, to be sure our day of days-the most joyful of all the season; but surely every home-mother at least will agree that the days of preparation before Christmas are filled with a quiet, stead, soul stirring happiness that could not be exchanged for any singe day of revelry. 

For is it not during the weeks that precede the holidays that we prepare gifts for our dear ones? Are we not busy planning and scheming and perhaps denying ourselves some coveted thing that we may enrich those we love? 

In Europe, it was fashionable to chop off the tip of a large fir to use as a Christmas tree. However, since this practice prevented the tree from growing taller and made it useless as a timber tree, statutes were enacted to limit people from having more than one tree. With the introduction of the "goosefeather tree" made in Germany as early as 1845, this problem was resolved. Goose feathers were plentiful and what was perhaps the first artificial tree began to be produced as a cottage industry as the alternative to cutting a live tree. 

Meanwhile in America, cut live trees were the cherished way to make the holiday come alive. German immigrants brought their portable feather tree with them to the United States and introduced the Victorian feather Christmas tree. However, the practice of using artificial trees did not become popular until Sears Roebuck first advertised artificial trees for sale in their 1913 catalogs.


New Release

A Fresh Start for Christmas 

(Spinster Mail-Order Brides Book 14)

In my new release, A Fresh Start for ChristmasMemphis Rose Griffin loves teaching at Counting Stars Children's Home. The girls and staff are like family, and working here ties her to her mother, whose last wish was for Memphis to take her place as teacher. But something's missing. Now at the age of twenty-eight, her teenage dream of having her own family has all but faded.

Until her pastor and the orphanage founder come with a proposal that will change her life forever. Should she become their first candidate for their new matchmaking venture? Though grim, at least her life at the orphanage is familiar and certain. Can she risk an unknown future with a man she's never met?

The last thing thirty-three-year-old Mike Montgomery wants is to marry again, especially to someone he's never met. His family has other plans for him and completes the application without his permission--even changing some of his preferences to make him seem more intriguing. Can two star-crossed candidates dare to dream again? 

Counting Stars Orphanage – Collier, Tennessee – Spring 1891
“What are men to rocks and mountains?”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
The calico curtains fluttered in the morning breeze and ushered in a quick chorus from multiple frogs welcoming a warm spring day. Twenty-eight-year-old teacher, Memphis Rose Griffin, fought the urge to smile at the longing looks from at least four of her younger students. For a moment she was transported back in time as a young girl sitting in this same room.
Except for the recent whitewashing of the log walls and the transition from benches to double-seated desks, the room was the same. Formerly a surveyor’s cabin, the city delegated it to the orphanage twenty years ago as a school.
She glanced toward the black-painted wooden wall serving as a chalkboard. Written in neat script was the same lesson her mother taught years ago. The creaking of the door drew her attention to the arrival of her friend and co-teacher, Daisy, who’d arrived at the orphanage fifteen years ago during the yellow fever epidemic. A perpetual optimist, Daisy’s bright smile transformed her small face.
“Mrs. Shelby asked me to come and relieve you. The pastor’s here and wants to speak with you.” Daisy pushed an escaping auburn curl behind her ear.
“Does he have anyone with him?” Memphis spoke softly.
“No, not this time.” Daisy blew out a breath. “As much as I love children, it’s a relief, since we’re protruding at the seams as it is.”
“I was in the middle of explaining why Washington thought it wouldn’t be a good idea for our flag to be similar to the enemy’s.” Memphis inclined her head toward the various aged students sitting two to a desk.
Daisy wrinkled her nose toward the writing on the board. The flag of the United States of America. The stripes represent the original thirteen colonies. “You know how much I hate history. Do you mind if we transition to geometry?”
“There are scraps of paper stacked on my desk.” Memphis’s mouth twitched. “Why not recreate the five and six-point star?”
“I like the way you think.” Daisy grinned. “You’d best be on your way.”
Memphis’s boots made quick taps along the plank floor, then out the door. A blue heron took flight from a group of cattails nestled on the bank of the nearby pond and disappeared in the thicket of willow oaks. She waved both arms to cut through a swarm of mosquitos. As loud as the frogs were last night, you’d think they would have done a better job eliminating these pests.
Continuing on the clay path, she passed a field where teenage boys were working with a volunteer to prepare the ground for corn and other crops, which helped the orphanage sustain itself.
 “Good Morning, Miss Griffin.” Many of the teens paused from their work in the vegetable garden and waved.
“Morning, boys.” Memphis placed her hand over her stomach and struggled to catch her breath due to the restraints of her corset. From her viewpoint, the two-story log house, which had been her home since birth, stood proud against the blue sky. She hurried the pace, lifting her skirts to avoid muddying her hems and made the trek to the front door of the building. Originally a two-story dogtrot style, the open hall in the middle was enclosed to increase the square footage.
Memphis opened the door and passed the large parlor, converted years ago to a nursery for infants and toddlers. Her boots made quick taps across the split log floors into the library, which doubled as the orphanage’s office.
Reverend Otis Jackson rose from his chair and extended his hand. “Good morning, young lady.”
“Have a seat, Memphis Rose.” The matron of the orphanage poured an aromatic brew into a china cup. “The pastor brought us a new blend from a friend of his, who produces tea in South Carolina.”
“What a wonderful treat. Thank you for sharing it with us, Reverend.” Memphis accepted her cup, which now included a spoonful of honey. “Are we celebrating something?”
The pastor retrieved his handkerchief and wiped his receding hairline. “Mrs. Shelby and I were doing a bit of reminiscing.” His shaggy eyebrows drew together. Then he stared into the distance. “We were discussing how thankful we are that God has brought us through tragedy and met our needs. Imagine a widow with no children of her own blessed to raise so many?” Mrs. Shelby glanced toward a painting of a bearded man, depicting Abraham staring into the starry sky.
Memphis leaned back in her chair. “It was Mama’s idea to call the orphanage, Counting Stars, wasn’t it?”
“It was prophetic. As war widows, we thought ourselves limited. I wish your mother could see the newly expanded wing.” The orphanage matron offered a watery smile. A ray of light from the window illuminated her mother’s best friend’s pale complexion and brightened her blond hair mingled with white, giving her an angelic look. “More specifically, we were reminded of the day we met Reverend Jackson after the Union army took control of Memphis.”
“The commander didn’t know what hit him the day your mother and Mrs. Shelby drove their wagon loaded with orphans into camp and demanded the return of their milk cow.”  The pastor chuckled. “Your mother looked like she could deliver at any moment. She wagged her finger, shaming us for taking milk from children and threatened to stand there until the cow was back at the farm.”
“The army took our chickens and other livestock. They cleaned out our root cellar too. Thank goodness they missed the vegetables still in the ground. The only reason we still owned a horse was the poor nag was barely putting one hoof in front of the other,” Mrs. Shelby huffed. Not for the first time, Memphis noted the worry lines etched in her face.
“I don’t recall hearing the story before.” Memphis stirred her tea absently. “I can picture Mama standing her ground.”
“You’re a lot like her. Same blue eyes, although your hair is gold to her red.” Reverend Jackson chuckled. “She possessed the temper to match. Eventually, she got what she wanted.”
“I was never certain what caused the commander to return the animal. I expected he didn’t want to contend with a woman delivering a baby in his camp.” Mrs. Shelby offered a half-smile.
“True, but don’t think the wagon full of orphans didn’t affect him. Most of us had children of our own.” The pastor’s voice dropped off.
“Thankfully, the cow was returned. You were born two days later.” The matron patted Memphis’s arm. “Your mama would be proud of the woman you’ve become. You know I assured her on her death bed you would always have a home with me.”
“Yes, I remember. And I promised I would take her place as teacher.” Memphis shuffled her feet on the well-worn carpet.
“You’re an even better teacher than she was if that’s possible.” Reverend Jackson leaned forward. “Mrs. Shelby and I’ve been discussing your role here for quite some time. We don’t think your mother meant for you to take her place indefinitely. She was giving you a purpose to  get you through the next few years.”
“What are you saying?” Memphis clutched the skirt of her faded calico dress.
“One of our goals is to prepare the children for a life outside the orphanage. We do our best by educating them and teaching basic skills. You know as well as anyone how successful our apprenticeship program has been for the boys.” The pastor placed one hand on his knee.
“Our problem is how to offer our girls more opportunities.” Mrs. Shelby stared at Memphis over her teacup. “The children are brought up in the same manner you were. They learn to help in the kitchen and to read and write. The girls are taught basic homemaking skills and child-rearing.”
“You are a wonderful young woman, an excellent teacher and role model. We want to enlist your help to be the first to volunteer in a new venture.” The pastor puffed out his chest.
“You’re building another orphanage?” Memphis asked.
“No, dear.” The matron placed her cup on the table. “We’re starting a matchmaking service, and we’d like to begin with you.”

About Kimberly Grist:

Kimberly Grist is married to her high school sweetheart, Nelson, who is a pastor in Griffin, Georgia. She and her husband have three adult sons, one with Down syndrome, and they have a passion for encouraging others with family members with special needs. 

"Kim has enjoyed writing since she was a young girl. However, she began writing her first novel in 2017, "I wear so many hats working inside and outside the home. I work hard, try harder and then begin again the next day. Despite my best efforts, sometimes life just stinks. Bad things happen. I need and want an outlet, an opportunity to relax and escape to a place where obstacles are met and overcome." 
Fans of historical romance set in the late 19th -century will enjoy stories combining, History, Humor, and Romance with an emphasis on Faith, Friends and Good Clean Fun. 
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1 comment:

  1. This excerpt has captured me! Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas!