Thursday, December 31, 2020

Victorian-American New Year's Resolutions by Kristin Holt


Kristin holt | Victorian-American New Year's Resolutions

by Kristin Holt,
USA Today
Bestselling Author of Sweet American Historical Romance


Happy New Year!

Some matters might be wildly different now than back in the nineteenth century, yet some things haven’t changed. Like human nature. And the resolve to do better.

This clipping, from The Times of Philadelphia (December 31, 1875) encapsulates one view of the Victorian-American values surrounding New Year's and resolutions:

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American New Year's Resolutions. From The Times of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 31, 1875.

Quit Smoking – then and now

Given all we know about tobacco use in the nineteenth century, it’s no surprise people have both loved and hated the “vice.” This 'tale' rings true in 2021 as much as it did historically.

Note this quip from 1869:

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American New Year's Resolutions. Tobacconist bemoans New Year's Resolutions; The Wheeling Daily Register of Wheeling, West Virginia on January 7, 1869.

New Year’s Resolutions, Nineteenth-Century Style

Through the lens of vintage newspaper articles, Victorian attitudes about relationships, indebtedness, and substance use are apparent. Many New Year’s editorial posts and syndicated articles make the writers’ opinions clear—be sober, be wise, be prudent. And whatever you do, don’t drag the old year’s problems into the new.

Show Me the Money

No matter how many fictional tales I’ve read (set in the nineteenth-century American West), I’ve yet to see the financial “norm” appear. That “norm” is the abundant use of credit. Yes, the roughly-dressed newcomer to town might have to plunk down a coin on the bar before he’s allowed to run a tab, but what about the grocer? Or the furniture maker?

Did you know buying on credit was standard business?

People ran up tabs and paid them biannually. As a holdover from English customs and law, nineteenth century U.S. residents bought all year long on a running tab. These bills from the milliner, cobbler, grocer (etc., etc.) came due on July 1 and January 1. Not only did merchants want the money owed to them, but those merchants in turn needed to pay their suppliers.

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American New Year's Resolutions. All accounts must be paid to the newspaper so the paper can pay its debts too. The Johnson City World of Johnson City, Kansas on December 29, 1887.

Frequent newspaper editorials reminded readers to pay their newspaper subscriptions (in arrears), pay their parsons, pay their debts to all they owe. This tradition lasted throughout the nineteenth century.

Cultural Pressure

In poetry, no less.

I discovered numerous newspaper inclusions of New Year's poetry that bemoaned debts coming due. Here is an example:

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American New Year's Resolutions. "Those New Year's Bills", poetry published from/by "Hawkeye" in The Abilene Weekly Chronicle of Abilene, Kansas on January 2, 1880.

And one more, for kicks:

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American New Year's Resoltuions. Reprinted from Mayfair in The Lancaster Examiner of Lancaster, PA on January 7, 1880: "Those New Year Bills" poetry--illustrating the fear and personal recriminations (and shock!) when all those bills come due.

Viewed through the lens of twenty-first century political correctness, much of the Victorian Era is cringe-worthy. Statements made about those “other” than native English-speaking protestant whites, at the time, were not only acceptable but prolific. Note this one that both praises and demeans (or does “heathen” simply mean not-Christian?) the Chinese:

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American New Year's Resolutions. "We call for a Chinese New Year on Jan. 1st, 1876. That is, let all imitate the heathen nation and pay every debt. No Chinaman is happy unless he can commence the new year without debt." The Daily Review of Wilmington, North Carolina on December 13, 1875.

Societal pressures insisted a man couldn’t welcome the New Year while encumbered with unresolved issues. Social mores, strong as they were, carried over into “stories,” caged as Cautionary Tales (Moral of the Story) and consuming column after column in newspapers across the United States.

The Russell County Record of Russell, Kansas, ran a lengthy piece like this. Titled “The Happy New Year,” on December 31, 1874, a Mr. Ellis—who could be any one of a million middle-aged husbands and fathers—learns a painful and humiliating lesson. Pay. Your. Debts. Oh, and even more important: Live Within Your Means. This “fictional” fellow is far from content with his income, buys on credit, dreads the “New Year’s Bills,” and even though he’s taken on a wife (and subsequently brought about five cherubic children) can’t find his way out of financial purgatory without his neighbor’s voice of reason:

“Oh, dear, what a miserable life it is! And I must still keep the grocer’s pass-book going, or starve.” (...bemoans Mr. Ellis)

“Cash down! It must be cash down!” exclaimed the neighbor. “There is no other hope for you!”

“But where is the cash to come from?”

“Reserve enough from the payment of bills to keep your table and pay your servants’ wages. Take your wife fully into your confidence. Lay your affairs all open before her. Put the money needed for expenses into her hands, and ask her to make it go as far as possible. Spend nothing yourself. In fact, don’t carry money about you. It is a temptation.”

You Deserve Smooth Sailing

Nineteenth century mores insisted a man couldn't be happy unless in charge of his own finances. Note this effective comparison between "squaring the sails" and freedom from financial bondage:

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American New Year's Resoltuions. "Squre your sails," a comparison of weathering a difficult storm at sea to turning one's course away from debt; smooth sailing! From The Pacific Commercial Advertiser of Honolulu, Hawai'i on December 31, 1863.

Fix Your Marriage


To consider a New Year dawning in debt is nothing, compared to the dread of carrying a dying relationship across the threshold of January 1. Another lengthy moral-filled story graced several columns in The Western Call of Beloit, Kansas on December 30, 1881. (syndicated from Ballou's Magazine)

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American New Year's Resolutions. Moral of the New Year's Cautionary Tale? Save your marital relationship. Syndicated by The Western Call of Beloit, Kansas, December 30, 1881 (original credited to Ballou's Magazine)

Long story made short, a newlywed couple struggles with finances because he insists on economy and she insists he’s selfish. The joy of last New Year’s Eve when they met and began courting rankles this aggravated wife, and before she knows it, she’s pushed her loving (if frustrated) husband away. He informs her he can’t live like this, and he leaves her for two long years. During this time she transforms into an economizing and hardworking farm owner (not just a farm wife), whereupon his return, they reunite and are well-suited (because of New Year’s resolutions?).

Mend Friendships

Tucked within an 1876 article covering etiquette of New Year's Calls (at-home visits), this gem expresses the essence of New Year's-- reconciliation.

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American New Year's Resolutions. From The Rock Island Argus of Rock Island, Illinois on December 30, 1876. Within an article governing etiquette for New Year's Calls, "First calls, especially neglected ones, may be made on New Year's day, and if friendly relations have been disturbed, either party may offer to resume them by making a New Year's call."


Are you surprised by Victorian-America's social mores regarding debt and the New Year?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts.

Related Articles

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American New Year's Etiquette


Kristin Holt | Victorian New Year Celebrations

Kristin Holt | A Victorian Menu for New Year's Day, 1892.

Kristin Holt | The Victorian Moral of the Story

Kristin Holt | Victorian-American Tobacco Advertisements.
Kristin Holt | Common Details of Western Historical Romance that are Historically Incorrect, Part 3 (19th century tobacco use)

Kristin Holt | Victorian-Era: The American West.

Kristin Holt | Courtship, Old West Style

More from Kristin Holt

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

Kristin Holt | Sweet Americana Sweethearts Contributing Author Kristin Holt

Copyright © 2021 Kristin Holt LC

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Greetings Cards Through the Ages

During December, millions of extra envelopes pour into the United States Postal Service in the form of greeting cards bearing holiday wishes to friends and family. Years ago, I sat at a computer terminal in an encoding center and input information from an image on the screen to create a bar code label so the mail that was rejected by the optical scanner could be directed to its destination. Many hours of overtime were mandated in December to handle the increased volume. Even knowing that fact, I still send cards each year—I just make sure not to use colored or metallic pens that bleed and I’m extra careful with getting the address correct.

While plotting a Christmas novella, I researched the history of greeting cards. Interpreting the term loosely, the tradition can be traced to ancient Chinese who wrote New Year’s wishes and Egyptians who used papyrus to send greetings. In the 1400s, evidence exists of people in Europe making cards, especially for Valentine’s Day, and exchanging with friends. In the first part of the 1800s, Valentine’s Day cards were affordable and became popular. The first Christmas card is documented as being created in London in 1843. Sir Henry Cole hired artist John Calcott Horsley to create a card that Cole send to his friends.

In the US in 1849, Esther Howland became the first publisher/creator of Valentine’s cards. Her father owned a book and stationery store. Her mother wrote The New England Economical Housekeeper and Family Receipt Book, which was published in 1844 by her father’s company. At age 19, Esther received a Valentine’s card (which at the time had to be imported from England and were expensive). She determined a market existed in America and she convinced her father to order the supplies. Once she made several sample cards, she convinced her salesman brother to add the samples to the stationery wares for his regular route. Hoping for orders totaling $200, she was elated when her brother returned with pre-orders of $5,000.

Her company was born. Esther hired local women and started an assembly-line business in a spare bedroom in the family’s house. Esther designed and constructed the original and the employees copied her design. As the business developed, she also hired women who worked at home. A box of all the needed materials arrived at the woman’s home, and a week later a courier picked up the finished product. She incorporated as The New England Valentine Company in 1870 and was known as The Mother of the American Valentine. Her cards featured lace, hidden doors, ribbons, and gilded illustrations. Later designs included an interior envelope that might hold a lock of hair, secret message, or even an engagement ring. Over the years, the business moved to a factory-type location and she expanded the product line to include other holidays. Eventually the business grew to sales of $100,000 per year.

In 1856, Louis Prang opened a lithographic business in Boston and created the first Christmas cards in the US. In fact, the Greeting Card Association’s highest annual award is called the LOUIE.

In 1879, Esther published a thirty-one page book of verses that provided alternatives to what came on the original card.

That fact gave me the idea that the verses had to come from someone. My heroine, Fiona, was one of those authors who penned sentimental sayings for a greeting card company. By the time of the story 1883, Esther’s company had been bought out, and several companies were in the business of providing greeting cards to the American public.

BLURB for A Promise For Christmas, book 29 in Spinster Mail-Order Brides multi-author series:

After a decade serving as a governess for a wealthy Chicago family, lively Fiona Carthage is ousted from her job and their house. She turns to the Matrimonial News and responds to an ad from a Colorado storeowner. Anson Lorentz, a man who prizes routine and a quiet life, sees the happiness a mail-order bride brought his friend and takes a chance on bringing a bride to Gunnison City. Fiona works to make his house into a real home. Her arrival sets his household upside down, which causes friction for this new couple.

Will Anson stand by his promise to provide Fiona a secure home, or will his newly discovered family ties sway his allegiance?

FREE on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon buy link  


One name will be chosen from those who leave a comment to win a copy of A Vow for Christmas, book 7 in the Spinster Mail-Order Brides multi-author series.

I’m participating in N.N. Light’s Christmas and Holiday Book Festival. Learn about holiday titles in daily spotlights and enter for a chance to win one of five possible Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift cards. This title is featured on December 31, the last day of the festival. 

To keep apprised of my latest releases, please join my newsletter list here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020


Riding into town, the three travelers passed a small, brick church. Snow flurries danced in the air and candles glowed in each of the church’s windows. The Christmas Eve service had started. Organ music drifted to them. Silent night, holy night. Voices now joined the organ, drawing a wistful feeling from Charity. This was her first Christmas Eve as a believer, and how she wished she could spend it in that church. Thad’s baritone joined the congregation as they rode past. Charity gladly joined him. She’d learned the song years before. The words hadn’t meant anything to her, at least nothing more than an old story or legend. This year, she treasured the sacrifice Christ made to become a man and bring her grace.

Snow. Candles. Caroles. They're all a part of the Christmases so many of us have enjoyed in our lives. The idyllic Christmas. 

Since I write romance with a great deal of action and suspense, adding these tender scenes into my books makes for a sweet change during the holiday season. The one above is from my latest novel, Detective to the Rescue, part of the Christmas Rescue series.

In the story, a young woman has been trained by her uncle. While he's a very successful Pinkerton agent, her first case was a flop. She has one more chance at a case and has to succeed. She's willing to do what it takes to make that happen--even if it means posing as a stranger's wife. 

Nothing seems to work like she expected. Is it any wonder she suddenly finds herself married for real!

In addition to writing novels to release specifically at Christmas, holiday scenes are sometimes worked into my other novels. Last month, I released A Bride for Boss. The scene that truly bonds the new family together takes place at Christmas.

In the main room, a large sock hung from the mantle. Behind the low hanging sock, a pine knot popped in the cheery fire that drew Frankie. The room was cold, reminding Frankie that she was living in a mud house.

As she rubbed her hands near the flames, Boss reached around her to lift the sock off of the nail. He pointed to the nail before giving Marsha the sock.

“See that nail, precious girl. That one’s yours for every Christmas.”

His daughter puckered her face in confusion. Boss’s voice quavered as he tried to explain. “Christmas is a special day each year. It’s precious so we give you a present to celebrate.”

Carrying the girl to the sofa covered by a gray wool blanket, Boss sat with her on his lap and offered Marsha the bulging stocking. She held it but didn’t reach inside.

Frankie joined them, sitting close to her husband.  Smiling at Marsha, she rolled the top of the stocking down. “I think there’s something fun inside for Marsha,” she crooned.

At those words, the girl’s face changed from confusion to excitement. She seemed to now understand that the contents were hers and reached in to pull out the surprise.

Her little fingers entwined in yarn and pulled out a soft rag doll. Its face had been embroidered with skill, and a finely sewn calico dress covered the rag body. From the doll’s neck, a bonnet dangled down its back.

Where and when had her husband bought it? She knew he couldn’t have made it in the night. Had he slipped out while she slept?

Marsha’s lips pursed as she oohed over her doll. Cradling the rag doll, the little one rocked it slowly. Then she surprised her new parents.


Frankie met her husband’s startled gaze and grinned. “Another new word! I think the words are locked up in her brain, only she’s been too afraid to use them.”

Rubbing a hand over her child’s dark hair, Frankie softly asked Boss about the doll. “When did you have a chance to get it? Weren’t the stores closed today?”

With a nod of his head, Boss answered her. “Yeah, I haven’t left the house.”

His voice faltered a bit as he looked at a distant corner of the room while speaking. “I had a sister who died young of yellow fever.” He ducked his head in embarrassment as he explained. “I’ve kept her doll all these years. Just somethin’ to remember her by, I guess.”

Frankie gave him a worried look. “It won’t bother you to see Marsha play with it? Maybe even get it dirty?”

His head shook from side to side. “Nah. Marie’s been gone years. The toy’s been stuffed in a chest without me lookin’ at it. Time for it to be used.” Then he gave a gruff laugh. “Anyhow, can’t have my girl here goin’ without. This bein’ our first Christmas together.”

Tears pooled in Frankie’s eyes, and she willed them away. Serious, reserved spinsters didn’t cry.

Of course, she left that life behind to become a wife and mother. Maybe a mother could be forgiven tears in a tender situation like this one. She hoped so since the moisture ran down her cheeks now.

Clement Moore's poem A Visit from St. Nicholas (The Night Before Christmas), written as a gift for his ill child who wanted a Santa Claus story, is in part responsible for a great deal of our traditions at Christmas. The stocking hung by the fireplace. Gifts for children. 

Early on, Christmas festivities were for adults. Children had very little to do with the holiday. It was a time for drinking and being, well, merry. As an example, take a look at what is considered the very first Christmas card.

It might be a little blurry for you to make it out. If you look carefully, the child is drinking wine from an adults glass. Nothing innocent about the Christmas celebration on this card. In fact, when it was produced many in the public were outraged that it showed a child drinking.

I prefer the warm, child-centered Christmases I've known with decorated cookies and lights on the tree. We'd play I spy each night. The lights would be turned off and we'd take turns describing a decoration. The game was to see who could be the first to find the one being described. Perhaps your family had something similar. For me, it was an essential part of the Christmas and one of the few times my mother played a game with me.

Regardless of traditions, this year is bound to be a very different Christmas. No matter what doesn't happen or can't be done this holiday, it is still the time to remember the incredible gift of Jesus. A simple Christmas might be the best way for us to focus on that.

Check out my other Christmas Release, A Strongman for Christmas, at This mail-order bride romance will surprise you with the twists the heroine's life takes. 

"To be honest, this didn't sound like a book I would enjoy. A woman marries a man in a traveling circus...does not sound romantic. Boy was I was wrong. Like all of Marisa Masterson's stories, I couldn't put it down once I started it. There was action, adventure, love and of course romance. This is a must read!"--Leona M.

"The storyline is a bit different from usual mail order bride stories but that's what made it appealing and kept my interest throughout."--Amazon Customer

"This was a nice sweet Christmas story with a circus added in. The setting of a circus was different and not something I’ve read before. The attraction between Wynona and Marvel was instant, even though he wasn’t her intended husband. As they start to enjoy their new life together, danger from the past arrives at the circus. Will Marvel be able to protect Wynona from her dangerous brother, or will Wynona take matters into her own hands. Very well written story with good character development. I would recommend this story to others. Even though it’s part of a series, it can be read as a stand-alone story."--Theresa25

Sunday, December 20, 2020



How Braille was Invented

By, Annee Jones

My new book, A Caregiver for Cash (currently available for pre-order) features a 10-year-old girl who is blind living in the year 1890.  Part of my research for this book included a history of the development of Braille.

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, Braille is a system of raised dots that can be read with the fingers by people who are blind or who have low vision.  Braille is not a language, but a code by which many languages may be written and read.

Braille symbols are formed within units of space known as braille cells. A full braille cell consists of six raised dots arranged in two parallel rows each having three dots. The dot positions are identified by numbers from one through six. Sixty-four combinations are possible using one or more of these six dots. A single cell can be used to represent an alphabet letter, number, punctuation mark, or a whole word.

Braille was invented by a man named Louis Braille who was born on January 4, 1809 in France.  He attended the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris.  At that time, books were created using raised print which was very difficult to produce, read, or write.  

As a young boy, Louis longed for more books to read.  He was intrigued when he learned about a code used by the military for sending messages that could be read silently at night in the dark on the battlefield.  This system was invented by a Charles Barbier who was an artillery captain in the French army.  His code combined 12 raised dots to represent sounds and he thought it could also be useful for people who were blind.  He called it “sonography” but it became known as “Night Writing.”  But it had flaws, such as there wasn’t any punctuation and no way to spell.

Hence, Louis decided he would see what he could do to make this system more useful.  He worked on this between the ages of 13 and 16, using tools including paper, a slate, and a stylus to form the raised dots.  Finally, he shared what he had invented with the school director, and his code eventually became known all around the world as Braille.

Braille can be written in several ways.  The equivalent of paper and pencil is a slate and stylus.  A slate contains evenly spaced depressions for the dots of braille cells. When paper is placed into the slate, tactile dots are made by pushing the pointed end of a stylus into the paper over the depressions. The paper bulges on its reverse side and forms the dots.

Braille is also produced by a machine known as a braillewriter, which has six keys, a space bar, a line spacer, and a backspace. The six main keys are numbered to correspond with the six dots of a braille cell and keys can be pressed at the same time.

The invention of this system has helped many people who are vision-impaired achieve literacy.  It continues to be used today.  Here in Seattle, we have a Library for the Blind that I have visited.  Have you ever closed your eyes and felt a book written in Braille?  Who knows, maybe my book will even be printed in Braille someday! 

In the meantime, you can find A Caregiver for Cash here:

About me:

I feel incredibly honored to work as a disability counselor and am excited to be on a new journey as a Christian romance author.  Many of my upcoming books feature people with disabilities as well as sweet romances, happy endings, and Christian themes.  I welcome the opportunity to connect with readers so please feel free to “Friend” me on Facebook while my website and newsletter are currently being developed.





4.         The Braille Reference Book by M. S. Loomis, 1942.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Legacy - Giving - Part 2

 Post by Doris McCraw writing as Angela Raines

Photo property of the author

As this year 2020 winds to an end my mind reflects on endings. The long-running show 'Supernatural' came to an end in November. Now you may ask what a television show has to do with endings, with legacies. There was a line in one of the early shows in which the writer, Chuck, says "No doubt endings are hard, but then again, nothing ever really ends." after which the character disappears from the screen.

The end of that line "...nothing ever really ends." is what brought the thought of legacies to the forefront.

For the earlier post in this series: 

Legacy - the beginning

Legacy - Giving

Perhaps you wonder how the legacy of giving never ends if the person who does the giving passes on? It is a valid thought, but I would suggest that the act itself, the observation of those around the giver allow the story to live on. In part 2 I look at another 'giver's' legacy.

William Jackson Palmer

Most have heard of William Jackson Palmer, the founder of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. If you would like to know more the following books and links can add to your knowledge. "Legends, Labors & Loves", "General William Palmer- Railroad Pioneer" Brief Overview Article

The Palmer giving is a much smaller act than helping to create a city, give land to parks and churches, etc. The act I want to speak about bringing students from early school age to those in college to his large home. He provided transportation and entertainment. He also bought gifts for the children of the town of Christmas and held a celebration in his home. 

Glen Eyrie- Home of Wm. Jackson Palmer

Palmer was a man who'd spent his life building for the future. By sharing his good fortune with those around him he left a legacy of giving that is a role model for any who believe their gifts should be shared.

In my novella, "Home for his Heart" Fred is the Palmer for the small town of Agate Gulch. Below is a short excerpt: Clara has been humming to herself as she cooks the meal she serves the people of Agate Gulch each year for their continued support. Her friend Sally walks in ...

     Sensing someone behind her, as she turned her friend Sally was standing in the door.

     “You know you should sing in the church choir,” said Sally.

     “Oh I couldn't sing in public. The idea of all those people looking at me and judging, I

couldn't stand it,” replied Clara with a shudder.

     Sally's millinery shop was next to the restaurant. They both lived in homes behind their

businesses. During the past winter, she and Sally developed a strong friendship. Still, how

could Sally, who was petite and pretty, understand Clara's fear of being laughed at. Music was

her special place and any criticism would destroy that. Something most people didn't understand.

     “Clara, they would love you. Just as they love your cooking and your kind heart.”

     “I feel pretty lucky. To have so many customers who are friends, and of course you.”

     “Thank you for including me in that list,” replied Sally with a smirk.

     “You know what I mean. This meal is just my way of saying thank you for all the

kindnesses everyone has shown since I arrived, especially Fred.”

     Fred Mills, after eating her cooking in Pueblo, had talked Clara into starting a

restaurant in Agate Gulch. He loaned her the money to get started, and she finished paying him

back last month. It was something she was pleased and proud of.


Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet