All That Glistens

All That Glistens

19th Century America.

Life in these times would have been hard. Most people lived in small townships and villages. Some had gone chasing after gold. Some went to work in coalmines and some went to work on the land.

There were some cities in this day and age and they were mostly made up of immigrants lured to America by the thought of free land and streets that were paved with gold.

Shantytowns were built up where immigrants lived in hovels because they couldn’t afford to transport their way to the countryside. Conditions were rough at best. So rough in fact that 80% of all babies born to Irish immigrants in New York died.

For those who did live a more rural lifestyle, things were better but a lot of hard work had to be done to keep the household up and running.

Children did not have to go to school by law but most parents wanted their children to at least learn how to read and write so that they might have a better chance at life when they grew up.

The children that did go to school would have to share a classroom with children of all ages. There would be one teacher, usually a youngster herself, and reading and writing were the primary concerns. A lot of pupils left school as soon as they could read and write.

What’s for dinner?
Things like roast pork, roasted cheese, apple fritters and lemon pudding were what would have been served up after all the chores were done for the day.

People drank tea with sugar and coffee was also popular.

A man called George Washington Carver made some great inventions in the 19th Century. He invented adhesives, bleach, chili sauce, shaving cream and instant coffee among other things but he is perhaps most famous for his popularization of peanut butter – thanks George!

Yuck, imagine having to drink horseradish root in syrup or cayenne pepper in tea if you had a cold!

Let there be light.
Most households in rural areas read by the light of one candle and the open fire. Some richer households had oil lamps. People didn’t like making candles because of the smell of the animal fat.

What’s that smell?
People were also pretty stinky. They used to wash their faces, hands and feet and pretty much forget about the rest of their bodies. Richer folk had their own wooden washstands with basins and chamber pots in their bedrooms and would have smelt a wee bit better than the poor neighbours!

Get to work!
Children were made to start work at the age of 6 or 7. By work, we mean that they had to contribute to the household. Helping Mom cook or feed the chickens, helping Dad pick the vegetables or slaughter the animals. Play was an afterthought in these times. Survival was what was important.

In the harvest time the whole family would join together to get supplies ready before the cold set in. Bins full of salt were put in the basement and root vegetables were thrown in there. Other vegetables were pickled and meat was put in brine.

All ready for a cold winter with only the fire to keep you warm and pickled veggies to eat?! Didn’t think so.