Monday Musings: Getting “Knocked-Up”

Once upon a time everyday working folks paid someone to “knock them up”.  It was a quaint and curious English and Irish custom, begun during the Industrial Revolution and carried forward into the early twentieth century (and beyond for some locales).   Before alarm clocks were available and affordable, “getting knocked up” was essential to ensure working men and women avoided fines for arriving late to work. It may have been a curious custom, but it was honest work for anyone willing to arise before anyone else in the neighborhood, and rain or shine walk around tapping on their clients’ windows, or should I say “knocking them up”.  They would advertise themselves as a “knocker-up” or “window tickler” and were paid two to three pence per week to make sure their client rolled out of bed on time. The work of knocking up the neighborhood was a necessity on one side of the world, while on the other side Americans found it a “Queer English Custom”.1   For some it wasn’t a neighborhood job, but rather part of their duties as caretakers of prominent residences.  At the bishop of London’s residence, Fullham Palace, the lodgekeeper began knocking up the domestic help around 5:30 a.m. The palace knocker-up used a fifteen-foot pole known as a “rousing stave” to wake up the servants, knocking until the “wakee” gave “a more or less grateful answer in reply.”  It may have been a similar device, but there was a difference between the rousing stave used in rousing the help and the one used during church services “directly upon the persons of inattentive or dozing...

Monday Musings: Don’t You Just Hate When That Happens

Here are a few items that caught my eye of late while clipping newspaper articles.   One astonishes (that anyone made it through alive!), one will make you wince, the others may just give you a chuckle to start your week — oh, and a little European and literary history thrown in for good measure. As I write today’s article on Sunday evening we are having our third straight night of storms.  The first night the wind just blew HARD, almost tearing a couple of tomato plants out of the garden and breaking off a stem or two.  Last night the rain came down in sheets with winds of probably at least forty miles per hour (or more).   I was afraid the garden would be devastated but it actually weathered the storm pretty well, all things considered. Tonight it is steadily raining and we’re being treated to a lightning show.  It reminded me of a clipping I came across recently from the June 18, 1896 Kirksville (Missouri) Weekly Graphic.  I can’t imagine what it would feel like to have this happen (it would have scared the bejeebers out of me!): During the rain storm last Saturday afternoon the residence of Rev. W.E. Chambliss was struck by lightning.  The electric fluid entered at one of the dinning [sic] room windows, tearing off the shutter.  From the dining room it skipped to the kitchen, shocking Mrs. Chambliss and knocking over a little daughter, who was in this room with her mother, and for a moment converting a gasoline stove into a huge electric light.  It then left the building by the door...

Monday Musings: Harry R. O’Brien, Plain Dirt Gardener

It was such a beautiful Sunday – not too hot and not too cool (or windy) – that I decided to work in the garden after church.  With the abundant rain we received last week (Thank You Lord!) I had to re-work some of the rows I had already dug after they more or less washed out.  I had several tomato and pepper plants to put in the ground … we now have 26 or 27 tomato (I lost count) plants – ‘cause we love tomatoes in our house! I picked up another blister or two, started on my summer tan and wore myself out, but in a good way.  I love to get out and dig around, play in the dirt if you will – so relaxing and satisfying.  Not that I claim to be an expert gardener, but I give it my all.  I was thinking about what to write for today’s article and reminded of someone whose story I was introduced to recently. I was looking for some public domain photographs that I might be able to use for some posters, specifically featuring African American farmers, for our local genealogical society to place in the downtown and branch libraries to get people thinking about their family history.  I found the perfect one and located the person who had posted it.  I emailed him because I wanted to know something about who took the picture so I could provide proper attribution.  Donald K. O’Brien replied to my email with just a little tidbit about the photograph.  It had been taken in 1914 by his father Harry R....

Monday Musings: Such are all the particulars

Just a couple of musings today from nineteenth century newspaper clippings to start the week and some historical events of note.  I ran across the phrase “such are all the particulars” and found that it (or something similar) was commonly used in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries newspapers.  It was often followed by phrases like “we have yet heard”, “that are at present known”, “we have been able to collect”, “on which we can safely rely”, “of which we are as yet aware”, “we have learned”, “that were communicated to me” and so on. Hmmm . . . that made me think.  This particular phrase is rarely, if ever, necessary today since news is broadcast instantly around the world.  With cable news, internet news sites, Twitter and social media, news zips around the world in a matter of seconds,  not hours or days.  In recent days presidential hopefuls have announced their candidacies on social media or Twitter (although with all the media buildup, was hardly a surprise). The story with this phrase that caught my eye was a tragic one in the July 19, 1833 issue of the Boston Post: Melancholy Accident. – On Sunday evening the house of Mr. Peter Hannaford, Jr. of New Hampton, was struck by lightning, and Mr. Hannaford, his wife, and a young man by the name of Hobbs, of Deerfield, a student at the Institution, were killed, and four other persons in the house were knocked down.  A child in the arms of Mr. Hannaford was uninjured.  Mrs. H. had on a gold necklace which was melted. Mr. Hobbs was seated at a table,...

Monday Musings: My, How Things Have Changed (Or Not)

Excuse Enough To Swear While researching a story for an unusual name (Purkaple), I came across an article in the Chanute Daily Tribune (19 Feb 1912).  It seems Dudley L. Purkaple of Denver was in a St. Joseph, Missouri restaurant when he spilled a hot cup of coffee in his lap.  He was arrested and hauled before a judge.  Was it illegal to spill hot coffee in one’s lap (ouch!)? No, but it was illegal to swear.  Purkaple admitted to using bad language, “but, your honor, I could not help it.  I spilled a cup of steaming hot coffee all over my trousers and under the stress of great pain and much embarrassment I swore I begged the pardon of the restaurant man, but a policeman arrested me.” In today’s increasingly coarse culture, that kind of law would be hard to enforce, eh?  As a matter of fact laws against profanity and blasphemy are still on the books in some states: Michigan Blasphemy Law: “Any person who shall willfully blaspheme the holy name of God, by cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” Mississippi Profanity Law: “If any person shall profanely swear or curse, or use vulgar and indecent language, or be drunk in any public place, in the presence of two (2) or more persons, he shall, on conviction thereof, be fined not more than one hundred dollars ($100.00) or be imprisoned in the county jail not more than thirty (30) days each.” North Carolina (no swearing on public highways law): “If any person shall, on any public road or highway and in the...

Monday Musings: Washing the Pearline Way

While researching a few days ago, I ran across an advertisement in the May 26, 1893 issue of the Jasper Weekly Courier (Missouri).  The headline caught my eye – “When you’re Rubbing” – accompanied by a picture of woman in various positions over a washtub and washboard.  It was a bit intriguing because I wasn’t exactly sure what was being advertised. The ad referred to “Pearline’s way of washing” – what was “Pearline’s way”?  Was it an actual product or some kind of technique to make wash day (usually Monday) a breeze?  It was one of many clever advertisements printed in newspapers and magazines all over the United States in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth.  New York businessman James Pyle was the manufacturer and his ads usually ended with an admonition to accept no imitations. If a peddler or “unscrupulous grocers” purported to sell something that was as good as Pearline, that would be FALSE, for you see “Pearline [was] never peddled”, a recurring tagline for the product that must have been their motto: The rest of the advertisement extolled the virtues of the multi-purpose product.  For all cleaning purposes, dissolve a tablespoonful of Pearline in a pail of water (more if hard water); warm water worked the best, but wasn’t required – just don’t use soap!  Instructions were include to make a “soft soap” – a pound of Pearline in a gallon of boiling water, add three gallons of cold water, stir and voilá Soft Soap. Pearline was appropriate for washing clothing of the finest fabrics to flannel; for washing dishes it was “magical”; cleaning paint,...