Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Autoped

by Shanna Hatfield

We've all seen them tootling down the street. If not in person, then in photos, memes, or movies.

Scooters are a fun way to travel.

But if you think scooters are something new, think again.

The original motorized scooter debuted in 1915, manufactured by the Autoped Company of Long Island City, in New York.

The driver stood on a platform with 10-inch tires to operate the machine. The scooters featured 10-inch tires and could be steered with handlebars attached to a long steering column. By pushing the handlebars forward, it engaged the clutch. A lever controlled the throttle. By pulling the handle bars back, it disengaged the clutch and applied the brake.

The steering column could be folded onto the platform to store with greater ease. An air-cooled, 4-stroke, 155 cc engine rested over the front wheel. The scooter came equipment with a headlamp and tail lamp, a horn, and a toolbox. Although an efficient way to travel, it was not widely distributed.

Advertised as "Step on and Go!" the scooter was like an enlarged child's scooter with an engine. It wsa the first mass-produced scooter in the US. Though some reports claimed it could reach 35 miles per hour, it was said to feel "unsteady" when pushed higher than 20 mph.

Later, Everready Batter Company purchased Autoped and added a battery-operated version.

“The Autoped is an ideal short distance conveyance for business or professional men or women to and from their places of business; for women to go shopping or calling; for physicians to make their regular daily calls or to answer hurry calls; for the older children to go about quickly for outing or school; for servants when they are sent on errands; for grocers, druggists and other merchants for quick delivery purposes; for commercial salesman to call on the trade; for employees to ride to and from work; for collectors; repairmen; messengers, and for anybody else who wants to save money, time and energy in going about. All will enjoy the comfort and pleasure of AUTOPEDING.”

This photo appeared in The Retronaut and was captioned:

Lady Florence Norman, a suffragette, on her motor-scooter in 1916, travelling to work at offices in London where she was a supervisor. The scooter was a birthday present from her husband, the journalist and Liberal politician Sir Henry Norman.

 Scooters weren't just for the working class, or nobles, but anyone who liked the idea of such an innovative, novel velocipede.

The U.S. Postal Service used the scooters for delivering mail. Police departments also utilized them.

Delinquents saw a means of escape on the slim machines, using them as getaway vehicles to speed down alleys while terrorizing the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. The hoodlums were dubbed as the Long Island Bogtrotters. 

However, the majority of those who purchased the machines used them recreational purposes. Oddly enough, a vast majority of the advertisements were geared toward women, just as the ads that created a buzz half a century later when Italian scooters were all the rage. 

The Autoped might have been a bit ahead of its time, but it is such fun to see those old images and realize everything old is new once again. 

USA Today bestselling author Shanna Hatfield is a farm girl who loves to write. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances are filled with sarcasm, humor, hope, and hunky heroes. When Shanna isn’t dreaming up unforgettable characters, twisting plots, or covertly seeking dark, decadent chocolate, she hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.



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Thursday, April 1, 2021

Economical Victorian Housekeeping by Kristin Holt


Kristin Holt | Economical Victorian Housekeeping

by Kristin Holt, USA Today Bestselling Author

of Sweet Romance set in the Victorian-era American West

Victorian Woman's Sphere

During the nineteenth century, the United States held specific ideas about what constituted a "Woman's Sphere." Home was her domain, her responsibility, and her realm of influence. Because society held these home-centered ideals, girls were trained from an early age to fulfill this role. Not only did girls work alongside their mothers to learn every housekeeping nuance, but Victorian media (newspapers, cook books, books of housekeeping wisdom) emphasized a wide spectrum of housekeeping knowledge and importance. Book publishers and institutions (such as the Boston Cooking School) capitalized on filling the gap between home-instruction and this most highly valued profession: wife and mother.

Kristin Holt | Economical Victorian Housekeeping. Illustrated Image at the head of a column: "Women's Sphere"; Grand Junction News of Grand Junction, Colorado. December 1, 1894.

Housekeeping: More than Housework

Housekeeping included far more than scrubbing floors, cleaning the wallpaper, and laundering clothes and linens. Women were charged with creating the best possible living from allotted household funds. Household spending covered everything from heating and cooking fuel to groceries to clothing.


There are women to whom small economies, little improved ways of caring for things, never occur, but who gladly avail themselves of any knowledge they might gain. Such a woman will rejoice to know that her carpet sweeper will last much longer and will work more satisfactorily if the wheels are oiled occasionally ; that her wringer, if the screws are loosened when it is put away, will also take on a new lease of life ; that in the course of a year she may save several dollars if she drives a nail on which the stove hook may hang, and see that it is hung there, and is not left on the stove, where the handle is sure to burn and drop off.

~ The Burlington Free Press of Burlington, Vermont. September 12, 1881.

Economy in Victorian Housekeeping

Women's work was nothing if not repetitious and sometimes backbreaking.  Note that the following article, "Young Housekeepers Should Always Follow These Rules," includes a "regular day for washing and one for ironing." Last among this list of Rules: "Allow no waste of any sort."

Kristin Holt | Economical Victorian Housekeeping. Young Housekeepers Should Always Follow These Rules. From Buffalo Enquirer of Buffalo, New York, December 21, 1900.

Economy in the Victorian Kitchen

In an era of rampant dyspepsia, housekeepers were indoctrinated in the importance of sanitary and healthful cookery. Women learned kitchen science from their mothers, schools, and cookbooks. They also learned the essential Victorian value: waste not, want not. "If you do not waste anything, you will always have enough. ~source"

Note the high attitude in the following 1879 article. If a wasteful American housekeeper didn't realize her follies before, this set-down would bring all sorts of crimes to her attention.



Americans are an industrious, money making people, but they are not economical. Our housekeeping is proverbially wasteful, allowing leakage at every point, sufficient in the aggregate, in many households, to support a European family. Some writer (we know not to whom to give credit,) has made the following extensive, but by no means complete enumeration :

Much waste is allowed in cooking meats. Unless watched, thee cook will throw out water in which meat has been boiled, without letting it cool to take off the fat; or she will empty the dripping-pan into the swill-pail. The grease is useful in many ways.

Again, bits of meat are thrown out, which a French cook would convert into excellent hash.

Flour is sifted in a wasteful manner, or the bread-pan is left with the dough sticking to it.

Pie-crust is left over, and laid by to sour, instead of making a few tarts for tea.

Vegetables are thrown away which would be nice if warmed over for breakfast.

Cream is allowed to mould [sic] and spoil, mustard to dry in the pot, and vinegar to corrode the castor.

Good knives are used for cooking in the kitchen, silver spoons are used to scrape kettles, and forks for toasting bread.

Tea, roasted coffee, pepper and spices, are allowed to stand open and lose their strength.

Dried fruits not cared for in season become wormy, and sweet meats are opened and forgotten.

Vinegar is drawn in a basin, and permitted to stand until both strength and basin are spoiled.

Soap is left in water to dissolve, or more used than is necessary, and the scrub-brush is left in the water.

Barrels and tubs are left in the sun to dry and fall apart ; tins put away without being properly dried are rusted.

Molasses stands open and flies take possession.

Pork spoils for want of salt, and beef because the brine wants scalding.

Ashes are thrown out carelessly, endangering the premises, and being wasted.

Clothes are being whipped to pieces by the wind on the lines ; fine cambrics [sic] are rubbed on the wash-board ; and laces are torn in starching.

Table linen is thrown carelessly down and nibbled by mice ; is put away damp and mildews ; or the fruit stains are forgotten and the stains washed in or "set."

Table napkins are used to wipe dishes, and tea-pots are melted on the stove.

Lard is not well dried out, and becomes tainted, and rats destroy the "soap grease."

Bones are burned that might be broken and thrown into the compost heap.

Old shoes, woollen [sic] rags, and such accumulations are permitted to lie round loose instead of being composted for your favorite grape vines.

Sugar is spilled around the barrel, coffee from the sack, and tea from the chest.

Wooden boxes are used to take up ashes, then the box is pushed aside and forgotten. Many a family has been houseless [sic] and homeless in a night by such an inadvertance [sic].

Each of the above items is a trifle in itself--and yet the house where all these trifles are "happening"--just imagine what a place it would be! In these and many other ways a careless and inexperienced housekeeper will waste without heeding--nay, even without even knowing that she wastes. On the contrary, because she entertains but little company, buys no fine clothes, makes her own dresses, and cooks plainly, she may imagine that she is an exceedingly economical woman and a very excellent housekeeper.

~ Yorkville Enquirer of York, South Carolina, May 1, 1879


Despite the criticisms herein heaped upon the heads of wasteful housekeepers, many vintage sources support the idea that many women were excellent housekeepers--with surprising economy.

Kristin Holt | Economical Victorian Housekeeping. Save the Scraps--and what to do with them. Port Royal Standard and Commercial of Beaufort, South Carolina. January 20, 1876.

The next article (1891) focuses on economy in cooking, sharing not only affordable recipes for "plain cooking" but also the strategy of "saving every scrap (of food) and utilizing it." In the Victorian-era United States, "cheap" meant affordable and economical.

As a frame of reference, note that the "a man's food can be obtained at the cost of twelve cents a day" approximation, adjusted for inflation, is $4 (in 2020). Sumptuous living at 45 cents (1891) is about $13 (in 2020). 

Wow... do you eat sumptuously on thirteen dollars a day?

Kristin Holt | Economical Victorian Housekeeping. Economy in Cooking: The Art of Saving Every Scrap and Utilizing It is Known. Part 1 from Pittsburgh Dispatch of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. February 8, 1891.
Kristin Holt | Economical Victorian Housekeeping. Economy in Cooking: The Art of Saving Every Scrap and Utilizing It is Known. Part 2 from Pittsburgh Dispatch of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. February 8, 1891.
Kristin Holt | Economical Victorian Housekeeping. Economy in Cooking: The Art of Saving Every Scrap and Utilizing It is Known. Part 3 from Pittsburgh Dispatch of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. February 8, 1891.

Kristin Holt | Economical Victorian Housekeeping. Economy in Cooking: The Art of Saving Every Scrap and Utilizing It is Known. Part 4 from Pittsburgh Dispatch of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. February 8, 1891.

Quality advice, isn't it? Even for modern times?



What do you think?

Is it possible to eat sumptuously on $13 daily, in today's world?

Did you garner useful concepts to put to work in today's kitchen?

Please scroll down and comment. Discussion is the best part!

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Kristin Holt | Cool Desserts for a Victorian Summer Evening

Kristin Holt | BOOK REVIEW: Life in a Victorian Household by Paula Horn

Kristin Holt | Soap Making on the Old West Homestead

Kristin Holt | Victorian Era: The American West

Copyright © 2021 Kristin Holt LC

Country Diaries


Hi, Kit Morgan here and today I want to talk a little about diaries. But not just any diaries. Let's take a look at country diaries.

So what makes a country diary? Well, they include sketches and sometimes watercolors of plant and wildlife around a country home or estate. There have been some famous country diaries written and turned into books for modern readers. The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady comes to mind. It was written by Edith Holden who came from a very talented family. Edith was nearly forty when she established herself as a book illustrator and she continued working until her death in 1920. At the time her sisters gained greater recognition in their lifetime for their literary and artistic works. But Edith, following the tradition of her Victorian predecessors (ladies of widely varying ability) filled her days with music, painting and poetry. Her work is evidence of an exceptional talent and sensitivity and she was encouraged from an early age by her family and the surroundings of her youth. 

But there is another country diary called The Cottage Book. A classic country diary compiled by Sir Edward Grey and his wife Dorothy at the turn of the century as a record of their visits to their cottage at Igchen Abbas in Hampshire. The Grey's diary is filled with photographs, drawings, watercolors, sketches and fun entries of their days.

These country diaries are a far cry from the diaries kept by the pioneers going west and recording life on a wagon train. English County Diaries record a tranquil life and have entries about a changing world. Pioneer diaries record fun times, hardships, and death. 

There are civil war diaries, World War 1 diaries, and other diaries from well-known individuals to the lonesome cowboy out on the range. Diaries keep us company, record our history and give su something to hand down to our children. Or not. Depending on what's in them!

Do you keep a diary? Did your parents or grandparents? Some of my characters keep diaries and I have characters going through a diary in a contemporary western of mine trying to solve a mystery. Diaries are fun and personally I'd never thought to draw and sketch in one. But it's a big thing now!

Until next time, Happy Writing!