Looking Back

The Turkeys' Holidays

Sam MooreWhere do you get your turkey for your family’s big Thanksgiving or Christmas feast? “Why,” you reply, “From the super-market, of course.” And you’re right – as of Sept. 28, 2018, some 240 million turkeys had been raised during the year to feed the American obsession with having a large turkey, perfectly roasted to a beautiful golden brown, resplendent on a platter in the center of each holiday dinner table.

Today, Turkeys are raised in long, low buildings that are ventilated in the summer and heated in the winter. The ration fed the birds is carefully calculated and measured to assure maximum weight gain and everything is kept as sanitary as possible. It usually takes from 19 to 21 weeks to bring the birds from chicks to market weight, at which time they are trucked to a processing plant where they are turned into the attractive packages you find in the meat cases at your favorite grocery store.

But, go back 150 years or so – say the Christmas of 1865 – and what do we see?

The War Between the States had ended just seven or eight months ago at Appomattox, Virginia, when the commander of the Confederate forces, General Robert E. Lee, surrendered to the Union Army Commander, General U.S. Grant. The five long years of that terrible conflict, America’s bloodiest war ever, had cost this country 620,000 dead, wounded and missing.

However, and this is pure speculation on my part, despite the empty chairs at many a holiday table, or the empty sleeves and pant legs that could be seen everywhere, Americans were undoubtedly happy peace had returned at last and were ready to celebrate that Christmas of 1865. Especially in the northern states, where there had been few battles and little devastation, although I’d imagine that even in the defeated South, with their long traditions of festive Christmas celebrations, folks did the best they could.

Turkey shoppers
Turkey shoppers at a market in 1865.

No statistics exist telling us how many turkeys were raised in 1865 or eaten for holiday dinners, but the two woodcuts accompanying this story tell us that the tasty birds were in demand even back then. The pictures appeared in the January 1866 issue of the American Agriculturist, a monthly magazine published in New York City beginning in 1842. There is no explanation with the illustrations except for the caption, “The Turkeys’ Holidays.”

One of the two pictures shows well-dressed city dwellers crowding into a market to choose and purchase their turkey from rows of naked birds hanging by their feet from strings of garland. There are some live birds in a crate that appear to be geese instead of turkeys, as some folks preferred goose for Christmas dinner.

The other illustration is the more interesting of the two and shows how turkey farming was carried on in those far-off days. The turkeys, which are unprotected by any kind of building, and apparently are left to feed on whatever they can find in the woods, have flown into trees to roost on this moonlit night. Several men have climbed a ladder and crawled out onto the tree limbs to knock down the birds. Other boys and men chase down the turkeys and carry them to a shed in the background.

The shed is being tended by a man and a woman, who would have wrung the neck of each bird before dunking it in a large tub of boiling water to scald the feathers. The carcass was then plucked and hung up by the legs over a tub to bleed out before being hauled off to the market. A method of harvesting turkeys that was a little more haphazard than that of today.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all Farm Collector readers!

– Sam Moore

Man chasing turkey
Catching and processing turkeys, circa 1865. Both illustrations are from the January 1866 issue of American Agriculturist magazine in the author’s collection.

Stories of a Gaar-Scott Salesman

Sam MooreIn a 1951 letter to Iron Men Album magazine, Mr. E.C. Foreman of Tacoma, Ohio, recounted some stories of his many years as a salesman for Gaar-Scott Co. of Richmond, Indiana, builders of steam traction engines and threshing machines.

Mr. Foreman wrote [in part]: “My mind still reverts to the grand old days when running machinery powered by the old steamers and the selling [that] machinery for many years. Many of the instances come to my memory as though yesterday. Many of these sales were just luck, sudden and remarkable. A few I will relate.

“Some years ago when I traveled by rail I boarded a train and a gentleman shared his seat. Some way I took him to be a thresherman and soon found out he was, and from West Virginia, and on his way to Columbus, Ohio, to look for a thresher. On arrival at Columbus I asked him to look over our line which he did and bought a rig.

“Another time on a train I had a catalog and a young fellow spied it and asked for it to send to his father who was a thresherman. This resulted later in the sale of two machines, one to his father and one to an uncle. Both machines were shipped on the same car.

“Once a postal card came to the office wanting a catalog at once. The office considered this a 'hot prospect' and sent me at once. It was 50 miles away and when I reached the town depot I inquired of the station agent the way to the man’s farm. He said, '1 mile out, but if you are a machine agent I can save you a trip because it was just a 10-year-old boy writing for catalogs and three other agents had already gone out.’ To make sure I asked a man loading lumber nearby who gave me the same information, but he stated that his boss was in the market for a new engine.

“When I reached the mill I saw immediately that all the old engine needed was new rings and the valve set. The owner insisted the engine was no good and never had been and he would buy a new 16hp and said he would throw the old engine in if we paid the freight and delivered the new one to the mill.

“Upon delivery of the new one, we pulled the old one out to a nearby barn, put in new rings and set the valve and the engine run like new. We expected to load it at another station some 8 miles away. While moving the engine on the road a man saw us and asked us if we would help him out grinding feed as his engine was entirely gone. I consented to help him out and he was so taken with the engine that he bought it for cash and later he bought a new thresher.

1884 Gaar-Scott engine

An 1884 Gaar-Scott 10hp engine that was owned by William G. Roberts of Somerset, Virginia, when I snapped this photo at the National Threshers Reunion at Wauseon, Ohio, in 2009.

“Another time I was driving an open car when a storm came up and a farmer yelled at me to drive into his wagon shed. I had some catalogs on the seat and he said, ‘Let me have a catalog, we’re going to buy a thresher and have sent for catalogs from a couple of firms.’ His son then said, ‘Father, that is the same make of machine that did our threshing last season and it did a fine job, no cut straw, chaff or dirt and green straw stack as a year previous.’ The farmer said, ‘Come to the house and get your dinner and we’ll consult the wife.’ The wife said, ‘We’ve thought of an auto but it wouldn’t help buy a thresher, but a thresher might help buy an auto later.’ That order was quick work.

“Years ago I was held up in a town by a late train. The station agent found I was peddling threshing machinery and said, "Mike, a fellow up the road, was here sending a telegram for repairs for a very old make of engine and a reply came just a few minutes ago, ‘no repairs available.’ I walked up to see Mike and some two weeks later a rebuilt traction engine found a new home for cash on delivery at railroad station.

“Once I heard of a sawmill operator through a school boy whom I gave a ride to his school. I walked down to his mill through the mud and he said, ‘Apparently mud doesn't bother you.’ I said, ‘No, it doesn’t and I hear you’re interested in a thresher.’ He said he was and that a very dignified machine agent drove out a few days ago in a shiny livery rig and wanted him to come out to the road as he did not want to wade through the mud down to his mill. He told the fellow to wait an hour and he would see him at the mill men's shack. The agent waited there but was so afraid of getting his clothes soiled from the mud and greasy clothes of the mill men that the mill owner told him he wasn’t interested in his line.

The mill owner said, ‘I see you don’t carry your vest and coat pockets full of pearl pens and pencils as the fellow who saw me the other day.’ I replied, ‘One pencil is enough if you’re ready to buy.’ He told me to leave him a catalog and see him Saturday evening at home which I did and the result was a new thresher sold.

Author’s note: In 1946 a Methodist minister and steam engine enthusiast named Elmer Ritzman from central Pennsylvania began publishing a quarterly magazine called the Farm Album. The Farm Album became the bimonthly Iron Men Album in 1950, a name that reflected Rev. Ritzman’s desire tell of old-time farm machinery, culture, and the “Iron Men” who ran that machinery and worked those farms.

Early History of Fordson Tractors

Sam MooreOne hundred and one years ago, on Oct. 8, 1917, the first of 739,977 Fordson tractors that were to be built there over the next 10 years rolled off the assembly line at the Henry Ford and Son company plant on Brady Street in Dearborn, Michigan. Due to Great Britain’s critical need for tractors to increase food production to ease the threat of starvation caused by the German U-boat blockade during the First World War, the first several thousand of these were sent to the British Ministry of Munitions (MOM) for distribution to farmers. Most of these were without the cast-in Fordson logo on the radiator top tank and were known in England as “MOM” tractors.

After domestic sales began in June of 1918, American farmers, hungry for a lightweight, inexpensive tractor, flocked to Ford dealers to buy Fordsons, with 34,167 being made during the rest of 1918.

Some Fordson owners cursed their new purchases, but many others were quite satisfied with their tractors – one wag said the machines “could do everything except milk a cow, climb a tree, or make love to the hired girl.” A Mississippi farmer wrote to Henry Ford in 1927 and said the Fordson “defeated all competition in that region and would do anything any sensible man or fool wanted done.”

A few Fordson owners even took pen in hand to write a few lines of poetry praising the little Fordson. One of these gems was:
The Fordson on the farm arose before the dawn at four.
It drove the cows and washed the clothes and finished every chore.
Then forth it went into the fields just at the break of day
It reaped and threshed the golden yield and hauled it all away.

I’ve worked mules and horses on the farm, and yoke of oxen too;
But a Fordson tractor beats them all by forcing farm work through.
It seldom balks, or kicks or squeals and never succumbs to heat.
I tell you now my farmer friend the Fordson’s hard to beat.

And one more:
Come here old mule, I’ve news for you! Here’s a Fordson
It’s come to make our lives anew. Here’s a Fordson
It’s come to change our work to play; it’s come to turn our night to day,
Oh yes old mule it’s come to stay for it’s a Fordson.

Bad poetry, no doubt, but it seems to have illustrated the genuine affection many farmers felt toward their Fordson tractors.

Fordson Farming cover
The cover of a 1921 Fordson booklet in the author’s collection.

Reynold M. Wik tells us in his 1972 book, Henry Ford and Grass Roots America, that “in 1910 there were only 1,000 tractors, 50,000 autos, and no trucks among the farm families in the United States; in 1920 there were 246,000 tractors, 2,146,000 automobiles, and 139,000 trucks.” Henry Ford had a big hand in this increase, with his mass-produced, and as a result, cheaper to make and sell cars, trucks and tractors.

By 1928 however, increased competition, especially from IH with their versatile Farmall line, plus the demands of designing and manufacturing an entirely new car, the famous Model A Ford, had caused Ford to withdraw from the U.S. tractor scene. The basic Fordson design that was introduced in 1917, although with some improvements, continued to be cranked out in quantity at British Ford Motor Company plants in Cork, Ireland, and Dagenham, England, until after World War II when the much more modern Fordson Model E27 was introduced, and even it featured the same engine and transmission as the old models.

In spite of its early success, Fordson tractors get little respect from today’s antique tractor collectors.

– Sam Moore

Frontier Life and the Good Old Days

Sam MooreSeveral months ago, I retold several stories about oxen and heel flies that had been written by John A. Hart in a 1909 book titled History of Pioneer Days in Texas and Oklahoma. Hart was born in Madison County, Kentucky, in 1850 and his mother died when he was two years old leaving John and a two-week old brother. The boys went to live with grandparents in Indiana, and the whole family moved to Texas about 1855.

Mr. Hart gives us an interesting glimpse of frontier life in those long ago days.

“When traveling to church some folks would walk from one to three miles, while others rode horseback and a great many went in ox wagons. The men were generally armed with guns or pistols, a shot pouch and powder horn. In the pouch would be a bar of lead, bullet molds and a rag for patching, and if caps were used, a box of caps, or if a flint lock, several flints. While at church the guns were stacked outside, but the revolvers were never taken off.

“Everyone wore homemade clothing, even shoes and hats, and I have seen some buckskin leather breeches and coats. Some had caps of deer skin with the hair side out. No one ever thought of charging a stranger or traveler for lodging – it was an insult to offer to pay for a night's lodging; stock hunters could travel all over Texas and never be out one cent.

“A trip to the mill was sometimes done with an ox cart or a yoke of oxen to a four-wheeled wagon and corn piled into the cart or wagon for four or five families. A wedding was generally public with everybody invited and everybody went and a grand charivari followed.

“It was the custom to have a grand time at Christmas and if people were to celebrate Christmas now as they did then they would be considered regular outlaws and all be arrested. [I wish Mr. Hart had described those wild festivities.]

“Rope hobbles, bridle reins, clothes lines, and bed cords were nearly all made out of raw hide, although some hair rope was made by cutting off the bush of cattle's tails and twisting the strands into a rope. People were considered quality when they could have a pair of hair bridle reins. Sometimes a hair rope was stretched around the bed when they camped out to keep snakes and tarantulas away as they will not cross a hair rope.

Family outside of a log cabin

Home sweet home on the frontier. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

“People always wanted to know when it was going to rain or when the sun or moon would rise and set, and they would pay ten cents for an almanac. I remember when matches sold for ten cents for a box which contained twenty five matches. Only travelers or freighters could afford to use them and matches were not used only in extreme cases. Many times I have walked a mile to borrow fire. Everybody kept a piece of punk and a flint rock to strike fire and by placing the flint on the punk and striking it with a pocket knife, the spark produced would light the punk and you’d have fire Sometimes we would take raw cotton, place it on a skillet lid and sprinkle [gun] powder over it and then take a case knife and strike the lid [to make a spark] knock fire out of the lid and catch the powder and we had fire.

“Three or four families would own a sorghum mill with the rollers made of live oak and the cogs were all wood. The owners of the mill helped each other in making sorghum. We didn’t know sorghum by that name then, it was just plain molasses. A single horse or steer turned the mill and it usually took a driver to keep a steer moving. Each person would make from one to three barrels of molasses. When molasses making was over the youngsters had a candy pulling and everyone would take part.

“Wheat was cut with a cradle by hand and a good cradler could cut about two acres a day. A good binder could keep up with a cradler but generally an acre and a half was a day's work. In case of sickness or distress every person showed a willing hand; if any one got behind with his wheat cutting or anything else, all turned out to help.

“Squirrel and cat hides were dressed by the boys and girls for shoe strings and leather raw hide was used to cover saddles, while sheep skins were used for saddle blankets. Sumac leaves and black jack bark were used in tanning leather. The leaves were gathered while green and the bark was peeled off while the sap was up. These could then be stored away and used any time of the year. The sumac leaves were used for shoe uppers leather and the bark for sole leather. When the hide was ready to tan, the leaves or bark was boiled and the hide to be tanned was placed in a trough. The boiling pulp was placed between the folds of the hide and the liquor poured over it repeatedly for three or four weeks.

“No one thought of going in debt and they paid cash or its equivalent or did without. If anyone would have offered to take a mortgage, the people would not have known what it meant. Borrowing and loaning things, however, was very common; everybody's oxen and wagon or anything else was to loan if anyone wanted to borrow it. Whenever anyone looked for their stock they looked for their neighbor's stock at the same time.”

The good old days?

– Sam Moore

The Wheat Tractor

Sam MooreThe history of the Hession Tiller & Tractor Corporation is murky at best. One source claims that George Pierce of Pierce-Arrow automobile fame, established the firm in 1917 in Buffalo, New York, but that seems highly unlikely as Pierce died in 1910. Then there was a Daniel F. Hession from Springfield, Massachusetts, who received a patent for a motorized rotary tiller in 1918 that was assigned to the Hession Tiller & Tractor Corporation of Detroit, Michigan, although a story in the July 1919 issue of Tractor World magazine says the firm was in Buffalo. No matter, the company made a tractor they called the Hession Farm and Road Tractor, later renamed the Wheat Tractor with the company name changed accordingly, and the Wheat tractor is featured in the following story from that 1919 magazine.

“Prior to the beginning of the National Tractor Farming Demonstration at Wichita, Kan., July 15, the exhibit of the Hession Tiller and Tractor Co., Buffalo, N.Y., was augmented by the arrival the Wheat tractor, with road wheels and rubber tires, that left New York City, May 29, en route for Los Angeles. The tractor has been driven up to that time approximately 2,000 miles, hauling a covered trailer that serves as a shelter for the crew of three men.

“The road wheels were changed for field wheels at Wichita and the machine was worked at plowing the four days of the demonstration hauling a three-bottom gang plow. The machine attracted a good deal of interest for it has been driven hard for a considerable part of the distance and after leaving Philadelphia the tractor climbed the Allegheny Mountains and from Wheeling, W.Va., went on to Columbus, O. over fine brick roads. The maximum was 100 miles a day until Terre Haute was reached and then progress was slower, for the roads were deep with mud from heavy rain.

“St. Louis was reached June 30, several days ahead of schedule, and then a stop was made at Columbia, Mo., to demonstrate to the students taking the summer course at the agricultural department of the University of Missouri. The tractor was next driven to Kansas City, where a worn clutch collar was adjusted and the tractor would have reached Wichita with three days to spare had not it skidded into a small steel bridge spanning Hickory Creek, 8-1/2 miles east of Ottawa, Kan. The main girder of the bridge was buckled and repairs were necessary to the front axle and radius rod of the tractor and a front spring of the trailer. With this delay the tractor arrived at 10 o’clock the morning of July 14, on time to the minute.”

A super rare Wheat tractor sales brochure I’ve seen tells us, “From the days when Joseph became the power behind the Egyptian throne because he had advanced the wheat market, wheat has been the accepted standard of value in the world’s markets. And as wheat is the farm crop by which all other crops are judged, the Wheat tractor is the farm tractor by which all other tractors are judged.”

Two or three Wheat tractors have survived and one can be seen if you Google the following, “Wheat Tractor,” then click “Images,” and scroll down to about the middle of the eighth row and you’ll see a dark red tractor with green wheels and gold lettering – that’s the Wheat.

That must have been quite a trip in 1919 – 2,000 miles on a farm tractor. Most tractors of the day had only one or two speeds with a high gear of about 2-1/2 mph, although the Fordson would run 8 mph in third gear. The Wheat, however, being a “Farm and Road” tractor could be equipped with hard rubber tires and a road speed of 10 mph. Even at that breathtaking speed, 2,000 miles would be slow going as attested by the fact that it took 47 days to do it.

It also doesn't say much for the state of the roads west of Indiana that they were so muddy the tractor was slowed considerably.

I wonder if they ever made it to Los Angeles.

– Sam Moore

The Wheat tractor

The Wheat tractor equipped for road use and the trailer “Pullman” for the crew on their “coast-to-coast” trip. (From the July 1919 issue of Tractor World magazine)

Butter and the King's Breakfast

Sam MooreI recently ran across an old book of children’s poetry by A.A. Milne, titled When We Were Very Young, that was published in 1924. In it was a poem that reminded me of my love of butter – that’s real butter, I mean – smeared on anything that even vaguely resembles bread—toast, buns, dinner rolls, and pancakes of course, and yes, even cookies and chocolate cake.

The poem is titled “The King’s Breakfast,” and I’ll paraphrase it here because I believe it’s still under copyright.

It starts out one evening when the King asked the Queen if he could have some butter “for the Royal slice of bread” at tomorrow’s breakfast. Well the Queen asked the Dairymaid who decided she’d better “go and tell the cow now before she goes to bed.”

Well the Dairymaid “went and told the Alderney: ‘Don't forget the butter for the Royal slice of bread.’” But the Alderney was sleepy and suggested that the King be told “That many people nowadays like marmalade instead." The Dairymaid went back to the Queen, curtsied and apologized and said, "Marmalade is tasty, if it's very thickly spread."

The Queen went to her husband the King and told him that “Many people think that marmalade is nicer. Would you like to try a little marmalade instead?” This upset the King and he went to bed muttering, “Nobody could call me a fussy man; I only want a little bit of butter for my bread!”

So back to the Dairymaid went the Queen, and back to the shed went that worthy young lady and laid the King’s plight in front of the cow, who said, “There, there! I didn't really mean it; here's milk for his porringer, and butter for his bread.”

Next morning the delighted Queen carried the butter to His Majesty who jumped happily out of bed, kissed the Queen and said, “Nobody, my darling, could call me a fussy man – But I do like a little bit of butter to my bread!”

It’s a cute poem and it made me curious about the Alderney cow that was mentioned in it, a breed with which I was unfamiliar.

The Alderney, Jersey and Guernsey breeds of cattle each originated on the Channel Island of the same name. These islands are located in the English Channel just off the coast of the northwestern French Region of Normandy and were once part of the lands of William the Conqueror who ruled England after 1066.

Although administered independently, the islands are dependent upon the United Kingdom for defense and foreign affairs. The sparse population of each island has long been very much isolated, not only from the French mainland, but from England and even each other. The main occupations of the islanders were agriculture and fishing, and a separate cattle breed developed on each island, although they were similar in that all were small and fawn-colored and that, even on the island’s scanty pasturage, produced a large quantity of rich milk and yellow cream that was high in butterfat.

The Alderney cow referred to in Milne’s poem was one of those breeds and was from the small [three square mile] island of Alderney, although since most of the cattle from both Jersey and Guernsey were imported into England through the port of Alderney, most all island cattle were known there as Alderneys. When the German Army conquered France during World War II, they occupied and fortified Alderney, as well as the other islands. Most of the approximately 1,500 inhabitants were evacuated to England or to Guernsey, while the bulk of the Alderney cattle were taken to Guernsey as well. Here the cattle from Alderney became bred with the local Guernseys and lost their purebred identity while the ones left behind were butchered by the German troops for beef. The Alderney, which was said to have been "the best butter cow in the world" then ceased to exist as a separate breed.

– Sam Moore

Painting of a milk maid

An 1878 painting of a milk maid by Winslow Homer. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Housekeeping Advice for Virginia Housewives

Sam MooreMary Randolph was born Aug. 9, 1762, into the influential Randolph family of Virginia and was kin to Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee, as well as a host of other famous people. She married a first cousin, David Meade Randolph, and was therefore a Randolph from birth until her death Jan. 23, 1828.

In 1824 Mary wrote one of the earliest regional cookbooks to be published in this country called The Virginia Housewife, which went through many printings prior to the War Between the States. I thought Mary’s introduction to the volume was interesting.

Mary begins by recounting the difficulties she had when first married as there were no books such as hers to provide guidance, and apparently her own mother had not trained her well. She points out that, “The government of a family, bears a Lilliputian resemblance to the government of a nation. The contents of the Treasury must be known, and great care taken to keep the expenditures from being more than the receipts. A regular system must be introduced into each department, which may be modified until matured, and should then pass into an inviolable law. The grand secret of management lies in three simple rules: ‘Let everything be done at a proper time, keep everything in its proper place, and put everything to its proper use.’” She emphasizes that “if the mistress will every morning examine minutely the different departments of her household, she must detect errors in their infant state, when they can be corrected with ease.” Also, “a late breakfast deranges the whole business of the day, and throws a portion of it on the next, which opens the door for confusion to enter.”

Mary goes on, “Management is an art that may be acquired by every woman of good sense and tolerable memory. If, unfortunately, she has been bred in a family where domestic business is the work of chance, she will have many difficulties to encounter; but a determined resolution to obtain this valuable knowledge, will enable her to surmount all obstacles. She must begin the day with an early breakfast, requiring each person to be in readiness to take their seats when the muffins, buckwheat cakes, etc., are placed on the table. This looks social and comfortable. When the family breakfast by detachments, the table remains a tedious time; the servants are kept from their morning's meal, and a complete derangement takes place in the whole business of the day. No work can be done till breakfast is finished. The Virginia ladies, who are proverbially good managers, employ themselves, while their servants are eating, in washing the cups, glasses, etc., arranging the cruets, the mustard, salt-sellers, pickle vases, and all the apparatus for the dinner table. This occupies but a short time, and the lady has the satisfaction of knowing that they are in much better order than they would be if left to the servants. It also relieves her from the trouble of seeing the dinner table prepared, which should be done every day with the same scrupulous regard to exact neatness and method, as if a grand company was expected. When the servant is required to do this daily, he soon gets into the habit of doing it well; and his mistress having made arrangements for him in the morning, there is no fear of bustle and confusion in running after things that may be called for during the hour of dinner. When the kitchen breakfast is over, and the cook has put all things in their proper places, the mistress should go in to give her orders. Let all the articles intended for the dinner, pass in review before her: have the butter, sugar, flour, meal, lard, given out in proper quantities; the catsup, spice, wine, whatever may be wanted for each dish, measured to the cook. The mistress must tax her own memory with all this: we have no right to expect slaves or hired servants to be more attentive to our interest than we ourselves are: they will never recollect these little articles until they are going to use them; the mistress must then be called out, and thus have the horrible drudgery of keeping house all day, when one hour devoted to it in the morning, would release her from trouble until the next day. There is economy as well as comfort in a regular mode of doing business. When the mistress gives out everything, there is no waste; but if temptation be thrown in the way of subordinates, not many will have power to resist it; besides, it is an immoral act to place them in a situation which we pray to be exempt from ourselves.”

Mary concludes her introduction with, “The prosperity and happiness of a family depend greatly on the order and regularity established in it. The husband, who can ask a friend to dinner in full confidence of finding his wife unruffled by the petty vexations attendant on the neglect of household duties – who can usher his guest into the dining-room assured of seeing that methodical nicety which is the essence of true elegance – will feel pride and exultation in the possession of a companion, who gives to his home charms that gratify every wish of his soul, and render the haunts of dissipation hateful to him. The sons bred in such a family will be moral men, of steady habits; and the daughters, if the mother shall have performed the duties of a parent in the superintendence of their education, as faithfully as she has done those of a wife, will each be a treasure to her husband; and being formed on the model of an exemplary mother, will use the same means for securing the happiness of her own family, which she has seen successfully practiced under the paternal roof.”

So there it is, ladies, the best advice for the mistress of a Virginia plantation in those heady days prior to that terrible war – a war that wiped out much of the gracious living Mary Randolph wrote about.

– Sam Moore

Pre-Civil War kitchen

A pre-Civil War kitchen in Virginia. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)


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