Tag Archives: heirloom

“Remember Me”–Heirloom Autograph Books

Some heirlooms really bring to life their owners and their time.  I am thrilled to have three autogaph books from the 1880s and 90s that belonged to my Great-Aunt Mary Emmeline “Maude” Stout (Bartlett) 1875-1963 and to my Grandmother Vera Stout (Anderson) 1881-1964.  Every page is precious, but I only have space to share a few pages with you.

Autograph books

Vera’s large and Maude’s smaller autograph books. That is NOT Maude’s photograph on the bottom left book.

Paging through the autograph books, I notice that my grandmother Vera’s is packed full, while the two by Aunt Maude have many blank pages.  Also, there are more boy’s signatures in my grandmother’s book.  This confirms my impression that grandma was always more sociable and probably more popular than her more serious sister.  The inscriptions in both range from religious in nature to silly verses.

My grandmother’s book seems to have been a Christmas gift in 1890 when she was nine years old. The first signatures in the book are from New Year’s Eve, 1890. The book is nine inches wide and six inches high. There are 34 pages in all, with signatures on both sides of all pages except the title page. The pages have become very brittle and edges are disintegrating.  Most pages are tan (presumably originally more white) but a few are pastel shades. While some pages seem as clear as the day they were written, some have faded considerably and are difficult to read.

The first entry is Vera’s invitation to her friends. She always had beautiful hand writing, but I am amazed that this was written by a nine-year-old.

Vera's Autograph Book page one.

Invitation to sign my book, written by Vera Stout

To All

My Album open! Come and see!

What! Won’t you waste a line on me?

Write but a thought– a word or two

That Memory may reverse to you.

Note:  The words in italic are added in a different hand as though someone was improving her poem.

Some of the entries are very plain, but some are quite fancy. In this case, decorated by the friend, Carrie Wood, who wrote a plainer entry later in the book.

Autograph Book fancy page

Artwork by Vera’s friend, Carrie Wood, 1892

Carrie’s embellished words say

Feb. 16, 1892, Killbuck Ohio From your true friend (___?) Dear Vera Remember me in the days of thy youth. Strive and you will win Strive + Diligence leads to Victory. From your true friend and schoolmate. Carrie Wood

Some adults signed the book, too–church and school officials.  Here are signatures by two adults with more artwork.

Autograph book adult signature

Art work by the Superintendent, S. D. Lisle and wife 1891

Dear Vera:

“A man that can tell good advice from bad advice, does not need advice.”  Mrs. S. D. Lisle

To be content with little is already a step towards greatness.”  S. B. Lisle, Supt. Schools.  Killbuck, Ohio, Jan. 12, 1891.

For those not confident of their artistic talent, the book apparently came with stickers from which the signers could choose.

Autograph book with sticker

Autograph book page with sticker 1891

Killbuck, Ohio, Jan 10, 1891

Friend Vera, “Do good deeds And You will be rewarded.”  Your friend, Lillie Wilson.

Every autograph book has to have some of these silly sayings, and the same ones might have shown up in my own autograph book fifty years later.  Boys, particularly, did not want to say anything mushy or religious.

Autograph book silly verse

Charley Lowe, silly boy May 1892

Killbuck, Ohio, May 12, 1892. Vera.  Remember me when far away If only half awake, Remember me on your wedding day, and send me a piece of cake.  Charley Lowe. (Bottom corner; “Remember”)

Most precious to me in these autograph books are the signatures of Vera’s brother Will (William Morgan Stout) and her sister Maude and other relative and friends I know.

Unfortunately, Will’s page has faded very badly, but I am delighted to say that he signed as “Bro” which is the way that my brother signs notes to me as well.

Autograph Book-Brother's signature

William Stout signature 1893

I am not absolutely certain of the year, thinking at first it was 1899, but by then he would have been in New York in School, so 1893 is more likely. He would have been 19 years old.

Feb. 9, 1893

Compliments of your Bro, W. M. Stout

Short message, but I love the sweeping hand in which he writes, full of confidence.

Maude, the 16-year-old sister, had advice to impart from her advanced age. Interestingly, she signs these pages as Maud (with no “e” on the end), but as an adult, she signed with an “e”–Maude, so that is the spelling I use.

Autograph Book -Sister

Message from Sister Maud Stout 1891

Killbuck Ohio, January 21, 1891

Dear Sister, “When the name that I write here is dim on the page and leaves of your album are yellow with age, still think of me kindly and do not forget that where ever I am I remember you yet”  Your loving Sister Maud Stout

The following year, Maud wrote another entry with an interesting P.S. at the bottom.

Maude’s autograph

Killbuck Ohio    Sister Vera

Ever keep in mind that the virtues of modesty candor and truth in woman exceed all the beauty of youth. Your sister Maud

May 20, 1892 [Grandma’s 11th birthday was May 23] Your last day of school in the old tin shop.

I have no idea what exactly that means, but apparently the town was building a new school. And this was the school in 1893. Grandma is to the left of the teacher in the front row.

Killbuck School, Vera Anderson to left of teacher. 1893

Killbuck School, Vera Anderson to left of teacher. 1893

Finally, tucked away in the book is a piece of paper art with the initials of brother Will Stout, and a page from the man who made the art.

Autograph Book

Stencil W. S. (William Stout)

Autograph book Paper Art

Signed by makir of the paper art

 

J.R. Welker was a Floral Cut, Paper Artist. I imagine like penmanship teachers and photographers, Welker traveled from town to town, demonstrating and displaying his art for sale in a public place, and perhaps teaching the art while he was there.

Miss Vera  January 18th 1892/

Perhaps, some day on some far distant shore/like one bereft of friends, I’ll sadly roam,/Endearing charms of those I’ll see no more,/dictating thoughts of love, of joy, and home./Gay as the Butterfly that sips the morning dew/each graceful air shall be, my ____paints for you.

{In the white cut-out in the upper left corner} I love a little lady yes it is true/I think that little lady is one like you/ And I think no affection can ever love vain/For what one loses th eother will gain.}

Oh, my, I can just see little Vera begging her mother to buy all of Mr. Welker’s art work after reading that romantic message.

When I look at my autograph book from when I was about the same age, I can only remember a couple of those people pleading with me to remember them.  However, Killbuck, Ohio was a small town and people grew up together.  I recognize some of these names and know that they were life-long friends.

Oh, I cannot close without adding one more page–this one from Aunt Maud’s autograph book, where Vera, then 4 years old, added her signature.  The woman who would learn to write so beautifully, had not yet mastered the art. Fortunately someone, probably her mother Hattie Morgan Stout added the necessary information.

Maud's Autograph book--Vera

Vera at 4 years old New Year’s Day 1886 in Maud Stout’s book.

A Slice of My Life: Home Sewn

Hattie Morgan's Sampler

Hattie Morgan’s sampler, Age 12 (circa 1854)

This pretty piece of needlework has challenged me ever since my mother first showed it to me.  Young girls  showed off their needlework skills in samplers like this.  “Sampler” because the girl  stitched samples of several different kinds of embroidery stitches, in addition to showing off her knowledge of the alphabet and counting, and perhaps a memorized  Bible verse as well. This piece introduced me to the joy and skill of home sewn.

The sampler says:

Prefer solid sense to vain will. Let usefulness and benificence direct the train of your pursuits.

When you mean to do a good action, do not deliberate upon it. When you are about doing a dishonorable act, consider what the world will think of you when it is completed.

Tis virtue sweetens all our toils/ With joy our labor crowns/Gives pleasure when our fortune smiles/and courage when it frowns.

[I actually Googled that last little poem and got no hits, but it is oh so typical of Victorian virtuous poetry.

This particular sampler was made by my great-grandmother, Harriet (Hattie) Morgan, then about twelve years old.

I felt like an underachiever compared to Hattie when I started practicing embroidery , but I determined not to let down the female line of my family. At a very young age, mother taught me some plain stitches.  In Girl Scouts, I had sewn a “sit-upon”–a pillow to carry for outdoors activities. My grandma Vera had taught me to sew on buttons (and how to properly hang clothes on the line to dry outside. ) In eighth grade, I signed up for a 4-H group where I could learn sewing, and began making basic home sewn items like aprons and pot holders.

Side note:  I would NOT take home economics in high school because my mother taught it and that would be the ultimate embarrassment. Much worse than wearing home sewn clothes.

The Singer Sewing Machines

I learned all the tricks I could do with my mother’s old featherweight Singer portable sewing machine. She got it in the 40s and used it for 30 or more years.  I still have it in storage, but haven’t tried out the portable Singer for many, many years.

That portable electric Singer was a big step up from the first sewing machine that I used–my grandmother’s pedal sewing machine.  How I wish I still had THAT machine! I remember the fancy gold trim–which is also a feature on the portable electric.

Sewing Machine

Singer table model pedal sewing machine 1920s Picture from ebay.

Because these treadle machines were first marketed around the turn of the century, it is quite possible that my great-grandmother Hattie Morgan Stout had been the first owner of Grandma’s sewing machine.  If so, she might have used it to slightly speed up the work of making the incredible crazy quilt, she created with her mother-in-law,Emeline Stout, one of my great-great grandmothers. It looks to me as though the pieces were stitched by machine, but then decorated with the fancy embroidery stitches.

crazy quilt pillow

Crazy quilt pillow by Emeline Stout

Of course I had no idea of this possible history when I was pumping away on the treadles in Grandma’s big kitchen. She would not have mentioned it because my Grandmother was not one to dwell in the past.  Although my Grandmother (and my great-grandmother) loved everything new, other people did not immediately embrace the new machine for sewing.

It was also thought that women might be too excitable and perhaps not quite bright enough to manage such a complicated instrument. In addition there were concerns that women would go wild and spend their days shopping, playing cards with friends and who knows what else if they no longer had to spend much of their time making bedding and clothing.

For more about the early history of the sewing machine, see the source of this quote.

With the benefit of hindsight, we know how those predictions turned out. Women indeed , no longer spend their time making bedding and clothing!

Making Home Sewn Clothes

From potholders and aprons, I progressed to making some of my own home sewn clothes, inspired by the pictures on the pattern envelopes and beautiful materials.

It had been popular for sewing for a long time. So much so that the smart flour mills competed to print pretty patterns on their flour sacks. And by the time I started sewing in the 50’s you could buy the material without the flour.  I made gathered skirts from that lovely soft cloth and also made a peasant blouse with a neckline that could be worn off the shoulder–which I wouldn’t dare to do (blush!), and elastic gathered puffy sleeves.

Fortunately, gathered skirts were in style. The home sewn versions were so easy to whip up and the material was so cheap that I could make them in many different patterns and colors.

The Red Dress

During high school, I continued to make clothes for myself from time to time.  I particularly remember a red dress with white collar and cuffs. Since this is a black and white picture, you’ll have to take my word for it that the dress was RED. That’s me as a high school freshman on the far left, one of my best friends, my father, my mother, and in front, my little sister.

Kaser famkly at Easter 1953.

Easter Picture. Vera Marie Kaser (Badertscher), Nancy Martin (Orr), Paul Kaser, Harriette Kaser, Paula Kaser , 1953

This picture illustrates some fashion notes of the 1950s. I accessorized my home-made dress with a very trendy elastic waist-cincher belt. Although I had splurged on new wedge sandals for Easter, my girlfriend wears the teen uniform of the day for feet–saddle shoes.  My little sister wears white socks with her Mary Janes.  My mother’s dress looks like it is one of the factory-made materials so popular after World War II–nylon or rayon perhaps. Our long skirt length came into style in opposition to the short, fabric-saving skirts women wore during the war. By the fifties, fashion had turned to the New Look, which meant lowered hemlines.

I am surprised that my father is wearing his shirt tail out and no suit or sports jacket, since we were coming from church and he usually dressed more formally.  My frizzy hair did not come naturally–it comes to you courtesy of Toni home permanents, the cheap beauty shop perms alternative  that left the house smelly for a week.

Fifty years after this picture was taken, I learned that I was not the only one who remembered the red dress.  The man who had been my very first boyfriend showed up at my mother’s funeral.  As we chatted about the old days, he said that he remembered seeing me in a red dress and thinking it was the prettiest thing he had ever seen!  Of course he didn’t say that at the time when I saw myself as an ugly duckling, with my home sewn dress and ridiculous home perm. If only we could  know some of the good things going on around us when we are young and insecure.

Sewing as a Young Housewife

When I went off to college, I took a recess from sewing. After I married and had three little boys, I took it up again. It was not out of necessity, but out of an urge to do something more creative than cook formula and baby food and deal with diapers.  After I tucked the boys in for the night, I would pull out my latest yardage of beautiful material, unfold the tissue paper patterns and get to work. Because I hated to stop before finishing a project ,I once took a night and the following day to sew a taffeta skirt and jacket with matching silk blouse. I wore it to a wedding the following day. I also made formal wear, like this long blue satin gown I’m wearing–along with big hair–in this picture from the late 60s. Yep, still wearing white gloves!

Blue dress source of border for crazy quilt

That’s me in the blue satin dress in the middle of the front row. Scottsdale Jr. Woman’s Club 1967

I fashioned one of my favorites projects, a very short dress (hemlines had jumped up in the late sixties,) from a piece of heavy silk that my brother brought me from Vietnam. He served in that country during the war.

I might have made clothes for a little girl, but since I had boys, I felt no temptation to try sewing their uniform of sturdy pants and t-shirts. However, I get points for  making home sewn costumes for Halloween.

Halloween costumes

Halloween 1966 Gypsey Mike and Ken Rabbit

A new house called for learning to make drapes and curtains. One year I made home sewn aprons as Christmas presents for everyone in my extended family.

Inevitably, I also went through my crewel embroidery phase and my needlepoint phase, and some pieces from those periods surface now and then. Although I dreamed of replicating great-grandmother Hattie’s sampler, that has yet to happen.

Turning away from sewing when the boys were older, I moved on to various other pursuits.  But I will never forget the sense of accomplishment that comes with putting together a whole garment, or learning a new skill like pleating or making buttonholes. I now knew how to secure those buttons that my grandmother had taught me to sew on so many years before.

Mrs. Beeton’ s Rice Cakes

 

Rice flour cookies

Gluten Free Rice cakes or biscuits or cookies.

When I offered a plate of these little cookies to a friend and assured her that Mrs. Beeton’s rice cakes are gluten free, she asked in surprise, “Mrs. Beeton had gluten-free recipes?”

Well, yes and no.  The recipe was certainly not labeled as gluten free, so it is almost an accident that it fits with one of the dietary concerns that people have in the 21st century. Do they look like sugar cookies? They also taste pretty much like sugar cookies, but that term was not in use yet, so they were called “cakes.” Or if you’re British and persist in calling cookies biscuits–that’s possible, too.

Isabella Beeton

Isabella Beeton (1836-65). Hand-tinted albumen print, Scanned from Colin Ford’s Julia Margaret Cameron: 19th Century Photographer of Genius, ISBN 1855145065. Originally from: National Portrait Gallery. Public Domain

The British wife of a publisher wrote Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. When the book packed with helpful hints and recipes was first published in 1861, it quickly achieved block-buster success. Isabel Mayton Beeton’s book sold two million copies in its first seven years in print.

Do you remember Hints From Heloise, newspaper column from the 50s and 60s?  Mrs. Beeton’s book combines practical hints worthy of Heloise, or a Family Circle magazine along with detailed recipes and small essays on food worth of today’s staple of the kitchen, Joy of Cooking. Like Heloise, Isabella Beeton’s book was first published as monthly installments in a magazine, and later compiled in a book.

The book was not necesssarily written with you in mind.  The full title is:

The Book of Household Management Comprising information for the Mistress,Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Butler,Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady’s-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work,Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: with a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort.

So while the Mistress of the house was included, it appears that Mrs. Beeton had in mind a book that would help the mistress (Upstairs) in the instruction of her many servants (Downstairs). It is ironic that this class-concious book was embraced by the do-it-yourself ground breaking women of America as well as the British aristocracy.

I hold Isabella Beeton in high regard. A person setting out to write a book this comprehensive today would have a staff of a dozen. And she incorporated so many innovations.  Just think what she might have accomplished, had she not died in 1865, when she was only twenty-eight years old. But her book goes on and on.

Although Mary Morgan would not have had the book in her kitchen in the 40’s and 50’s, it is appropriate because Mrs. Beeton would have been writing about tried and true techniques that had been around for a while. Cooking equipment had not changed much by the 1860s.

Mrs. Beeton’s Recipe

Her recipe for Rice Biscuits or Cakes is a typical example of the detail she goes into, even in a very simple recipe.  Each recipe is numbered, and they are arranged by category. This one comes in Chapter 35, Breads, Biscuits and Cakes, under the heading Baking: Recipes. (As opposed to Baking: General.)

Mrs. Beeton pioneered the now-familiar technique of separating the list of ingredients and the method of preparation.  She goes a step further and tells you how long it will take, what it will cost and how much it makes.  Thank goodness Bob’s Red Mill makes rice flour for me, so I don’t need to make my own. But if I did–Mrs. Beeton to the rescue.  She even is aware of her International audience–British and American. What a woman!

1746. INGREDIENTS – To every 1/2 lb. of rice-flour allow 1/4 lb. of pounded lump sugar, 1/4 lb. of butter, 2 eggs.

Mode.—Beat the butter to a cream, stir in the rice-flour and pounded sugar, and moisten the whole with the eggs, which should be previously well beaten. Roll out the paste, shape it with a round paste-cutter into small cakes, and bake them from 12 to 18 minutes in a very slow oven.

Time.—12 to 18 minutes. Average cost, 9d.

Sufficient to make about 18 cakes. Seasonable at any time.

GROUND RICE, or rice-flour, is used for making several kinds of cakes, also for thickening soups, and for mixing with wheaten flour in producing Manna Kroup. The Americans make rice-bread, and prepare the flour for it in the following manner:—When the rice is thoroughly cleansed, the water is drawn off, and the rice, while damp, bruised in a mortar: it is then dried, and passed through a hair sieve.

My Modern Adaptation

Although the cookies melt in your mouth and are satisfyingly sugary, I found them to be quite bland, and am looking forward to trying them again with a little more flavor–like lemon rind, cocoa or even cardamon.

But nothing could be simpler than these little cookies. Just four ingredients, stir, cut, bake, and eat.

Mrs. Beeton’s Rice Cakes

Serves 12
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 40 minutes
Allergy Egg
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Dessert, Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable
From book Mrs. Beeton's Household Management
Only four ingredients in this mid-19th century recipe for cookies made with rice flour. Yes, they are gluten free.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rice flour (white or brown rice flour)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4lb butter (salted)
  • 2 eggs (medium--not jumbo)

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees
2. Beat butter until creamy.
3. Stir in 1 1/2 C rice flour and the sugar.
4. Beat eggs, and mix enough into flour mixture to make a soft, moist dough. Add more rice flour, a Tablespoon at a time, if necessary.
5. Chill dough briefly
6. Roll or pat out dough on floured (with rice flour) surface. Cut with round cookie cutter or glass.
7. Move cookies with spatula to lightly greased bakig pan. Sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar if desired.
8. Bake 12-18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Note

If you use unsalted butter in the rice cakes, be sure to add a pinch of salt.

The dough for the rice cakes will be easier to handle if you chill it before patting or rolling. My dough was far too sticky to roll, so I just patted it out.

This dough is very delicate, so I do not recommend using fancy shapes--just round rice cakes.

This makes a rather small bunch of cookies.

If you wish, sprinkle sugar or cinnamon sugar on top before the cookies go in the oven.

Since the rice cakes are a little bland,you can experiment with other flavors, such as a little lemon rind, a few drops of peppermint extract or some cocoa powder, but don't tell Mrs. Beeton. That lady did not even use any vanilla for flavoring in these "cakes."

HEIRLOOM

The cookies are pictured on a delicate hand-crocheted doiley that I love.   Unfortunately, I do not know who made this doiley.  Best candidates are two aunts on my father’s side of the family--Irene Bucklew or Blanche Kaser.  Aren’t those pansies adorable? Every time I see this, I have a pang of regret that doileys have fallen out of favor in our no-nonsense age.