How to Spend Winter Evenings

| 2/18/2016 9:32:00 AM

Sam MooreBack in the middle of the nineteenth century, the Scientific American magazine seems to have been all in a dither worrying about how its many readers may have been wasting their leisure time. In spite of the strong possibility that most folks in those pre-40 hour a week times most likely had precious little spare time, and ignoring the human inclination to rest a little when one has the chance, S.A. regaled folks with ideas for improving their scarce off hours.

In the Nov. 14, 1857, issue appeared the following advice:

“The season when King Frost enchains our country in his icy grasp, and throws his white mantle over the earth, will soon be upon us and we must begin to think what we shall do with ourselves in those long winter evenings, when there is no comfort but at the fireside, or in sitting close around the stove. Those evenings contain many precious hours that ought not to be, as they too often are, wasted and lost. Reader, we will propose a scheme to you whereby you will find them pass pleasantly and profitably; and when spring again comes, with its gladsome sounds and beauteous vegetation, you will be happier and better for the winter that has passed.

“Our advice, then, is to learn to do something. No matter what; to draw, to paint, to put together machinery, to read or speak a language that at present you do not know; invent something in your own line of business that is wanted, and determine to make it by the spring. Learn something, read a useful book every evening, if only for an hour; but do whatever you determine regularly and punctually, and you will be surprised how much knowledge you will have acquired in a short time. Do not idle away the precious moments in foolish conversation and story paper nonsense, although they are both very good in their place; but try and master a branch of science—each one of you knows which you like the best, and which is best suited to your habits and capabilities—and should you meet with difficulties in the way, as no doubt many will, write to us, and we will give you the best aid and advice that it is in our power to dispense.

“At any rate, set earnestly to work, and learn to do something, and who knows but that there may be among the subscribers to the Scientific American an embryo Newton, Herschel, Morse or Watt. If such there should be, this advice may tend to develop his genius, and the world will eventually thank us for having advised our readers not to neglect their winter evenings.”

Then, 12 years later, on Nov. 27, 1869, the magazine again asked: “What will you do with your Evenings this Winter?” This time the query was aimed directly at young men.


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