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  In Memorium to Jack. You will be forever remembered and missed.

The Way It Used to Be

LIFE IN THE 1500's: Things you might not otherwise know if you didn't open your mail. After reading this, do you really want to go back to the "good ol' days"?

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and were still smelling pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide
the odor.

Baths equaled a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house was the first to use  the  clean water, then all the other men, then the women and finally the children,with babies being the last in line. By this time, the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying,  "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Houses had thatched roofs;thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets - dogs, cats -  and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house.
This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed.  So, they found if they made beds with big posts and hung a sheet over the top, it addressed that problem.Hence those beautiful big four poster beds with canopies.

The floor was dirt.  Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying "dirt poor".  The wealthy had slate floors which would get slippery in the winter when wet.   So they spread thresh on the floor to help keep their footing.   As the winter wore on they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start
slipping outside.  A piece of wood was placed at the entry way, hence a "thresh hold."

They cooked in the kitchen in a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot.
They mostly ate vegetables and didn't get much meat.  They would eat the stew for dinner leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day.  Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been in there for a month.  Hence the rhyme, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot
nine days old."

Sometimes they could obtain pork and would feel really special when that happened.  When company came over, they would bring out some bacon and hang it to show it off.  It was a sign of wealth and that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

Those with money had plates made of pewter.   Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto  the food.  This happened most often with tomatoes, so they stopped eating tomatoes - for 400 years.

Most people didn't have pewter plates, but had trenchers - a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms got into the wood.  After eating off wormy trenchers, they would get "trench mouth."

Bread was divided according to status.  Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the "upper crust."

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey.  The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days.  Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial.
They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake."

England is old and small and they started running out of places to bury people. So, they would dig up coffins and would take their bones to a house and reuse the grave. In reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on their wrist and lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night to listen for the bell. Hence on the "graveyard shift" they would know that someone was "saved by the bell" or he was a "dead ringer".

(Shared by Winnis Buesing and passed along from Grey Squirrel.Thank you both.)

 Most of what I write pertains to the time period 1790 - 1840.

A lot of people have seen the TV show about the Boston Tea Party and
seen a man picking up a box of tea and throwing it into the water.  HA
Those boxes would have weighed about 300 pounds.   Most tea of that time period that I have seen was made into pressed SOLID BLOCKS that were about an inch thick; 10 - 12 inches wide and 2 1/2 feet long.  These blocks looked a lot like charcoal and each block probably weighed several pounds which in turn were placed in large boxes for shipment to the
colonies.  When you wanted a cup of tea you simply scraped off a certain amount into a cup or pot of water.

In the 1700 - 1800 time period almost all women wore a muslin cap of which they had several.   When a man came courting the woman put on her prettiest one and this is where the term "SETTING HER CAP" for a man came from.

 A carpet was originally a thick fabric used to cover tables of the wealthy but the women found that it was always nice to walk on so they put them down in various private rooms of their home.  If a servant did something wrong they were called into one of these private rooms and reprimanded and thus this is how we got the term; "CALLED ON THE CARPET."

Beans weren't worth to much in those days and this is how we got the term"NOT WORTH A HILL OF BEANS".

 A lot of traders used the tops of barrels as a countertop when boards weren't readily available and this is how we got the term :   CASH ON THE BARRELHEAD".

During this period and before; men did not have pockets in their pants as this saved material.  The men either carried their things in the jacket pockets or they wore a pouch either on a belt or over their

Women were allowed to wear a VERY LOW CUT dress but if the dress had short sleeves they were considered women of ill repute.  The women generally wore an apron and under this was worn  a pocket fastened to the waist with a cord or cloth.  This is where we get the saying "Lucy locket lost a pocket".

The voyagers who carried trade goods in large canoes to the Rocky Mountains were generally small men and were 12 - 22 years of age.  The smaller they were; the better as this left room for more trade goods in the canoe which were 26 - 30 feet long.  The belt around their waists
served 2 purposes.

1. This acted as a support around their waist to prevent a hernia because of the heavy loads that they had to pack when they had to portage around any bad rapids.

2. It acted as a rope to pull the canoes over the rapids when going upstream.

They wore a long knitted hat and this served as a pocket to carry anything that they did not want get wet while in the water.
Generally a voyager was forced to quit when he was at a young age due to the heavy loads they had to pack which generally weighed more than they did.

The wife has told me that I made ONE mistake.  I mentioned that a voyager was forced to quit at a young age.  This is true but  A LOT OF THEM ALSO DIED AT A YOUNG AGE DUE TO THOSE FACTORS.

Beaver pelts were shipped to Europe where men worked in small cubicles to flesh out the hides and made into hats.  The chemicals were breathed in and within 3 - 4 years it caused the person to go insane.  This is
where we get the term "MAD AS A HATTER".
My wife remembered this one.  When a woman got married she made her petticoats with a draw string (even the outside skirt was called a petticoat).  This allowed the woman to let out the material when she
became pregnant.

If a woman owned a silver spoon she carried it every where with her as this was a sign of being well to do and she made it a point of waving it around when she went to visit and eat.  The common people used spoons made of wood as a general rule.

Here is another fact that I did not know that my wife mentioned.  In
the 18th century a fat woman was considered more desirable for marriage as a woman's wide hips were equated with good childbearing potential.  A lot of the women wore a padded, boned garment shaped like a derriere and was called a "bum roll" to enhance their "figure" (hips) and thus be moreattractive to the male species.

MONEY:  About 1804 the Russians in Alaska made money from sealskins.
They were afraid to make the money out of metal as the natives
could/would make this metal into arrow heads so they made tokens of
different denominations from sealskins.  About 100,000 of these were made between 1804 - 1867 and these are  now a collector item of great value as less than 20 are now known to exist.

TRADE GUN:  Guns were a great trade item with the Indians and when beaver was traded for a rifle then the stack of beavers had to be as high as the rifle.  Trade guns were made with a longer (12 - 24 inch) barrel and the Indians believed that this caused the gun to shoot further but in turn the stack of beaver pelts was taller.  This was one of many gimmicks that was used for trading purposes.

Cloth was $10.00 a yard                    Beaver traps $20.00 a dozen
Beads were $6..00 a pound              Lead = $1.60 a pound
Black powder = $4.60 a pound         Coffee = $3.00 a pound
Flour = $2.50 a pound                       Sugar = $3.00 a pint
Tobacco = $2.80 a pound                  Pepper = $7.50 a pound

A beaver pelt was worth $4.00 - $6.00 each

This is how they made their trade whiskey:

12 oz. grain spirits
36 oz. water
3 oz. pure molasses
1 Tbs. ground ginger
2 hot red peppers chopped up
A pinch of black powder
1 Tbs. chewing tobacco
Put all ingredients in a glass or crock jug and let sit in a warm place for about 4 days. Strain through a piece of unbleached muslin.

 A SMALL keg of whiskey was valued at $50.00.  (Probably a gallon)
This was taken from a trader's diary written in the mid 1830's.

 This was the price that was paid for certain items in St. Louis in 1804.  Compare them with today's prices but remember that the average person was lucky to be making $15.00 A MONTH.

1 cup of flour @ $.04
1 gallon whiskey @ $1.00 - $1.28
1 teaspoon of salt @ $.04
1 bushel of corn @ $.12 - $.20 cents
Beaver was bought for $4.00 - $6.00 in the mountains; resold for $30.00
- $45.00 in St. Louis and resold in Europe for several times that amount.

AIR RIFLE: These were used against Napoleon and France by the Austrians. 2000 of these rifles were given to their best marksmen and used to shoot and kill the French officers during the battles.  They were between .50 -.60 caliber and were rifled to provide better accuracy.  They could fire several rounds before they had to be pumped up again which took several minutes.

Because they were nearly silent and hard to spot as they did not use black powder. Napoleon passed an edict that anyone caught with one of these weapons were to be immediately executed and that there were to be no reprieve . Napoleon considered them an assassin's tool to kill with.

Lewis and Clark carried an air rifle when they made their voyage to the Pacific Coast.
They demonstrated the rifle just before they left St. Louis and the ricochet hit a woman bystander in the arm.  This rifle was about 50 caliber and was pumped in the cabin of the barge that they used.  Again this took about 30 minutes of pumping and could also fire several shots. Lewis also demonstrated the rifle to the Indians by shooting at objects
thrown into the river and they were quite fascinated by it.

Sacajawea's husband , Pierre ???? was a coward but was also a gourmet cook and one of the things that was written in the Lewis - Clark journals was one particular delicacy.  A buffalo had been shot and the sperm was
removed and fried in bear grease. (You won't find this in a history book in a school)

If you want to read a good book then read: FOLLOW THE RIVER. I think that it was written by James Alexander Thom but not sure.  This is a story about a woman who was kidnapped by Indians and taken up into Michigan? from the Carolinas.  When she and a Dutch or German woman escaped they had  to follow the various rivers upstream until they could
find a shallow crossing thus the name.  They had a blanket and a hatchet and that was it.

Today we work 8 hours a day; use 8 hours for our own pleasure and sleep the other 8.
In the 1700 - 1800's a man spent over 65 percent of his time just cutting wood, hunting for his supper, and tilling his fields which didn't leave much time for pleasure if he wanted to get much sleep.  The same applied to the women as they had to card or weave their cloth, build and cook over a smoky fire, tend their gardens, make their own soap, et cetra.

Life was short for adults and especially for children due to the lack of knowledge in medicine.  The Civil War probably created a better working knowledge of medicine than happened in the past 100 year prior to the Civil War.   The Indians probably had more knowledge of medicine than the white man as roots and plants were often used for various ailments as well as using sweat lodges to purge their systems.

 One of the beliefs that the "mountain man" had for curing venereal disease was to kill a bear and make a set of underwear to be  worn until the hide rotted away.   YUK

 Maggots were commonly used for infection and I noticed in our daily paper just lately that doctors are beginning to again use this method along with LEECHES.

Two out of three men who headed West to trap in the very early 1800's usually died of diseases, slain by Indians or animals, starvation and just plain accidents within two years.  I have read that only 3 women
went West beyond the Mississippi prior to 1820 and of these three; one of them was a ministers wife and one was her sister.  These people eventually made their way to Oregon but little is known of them.

Most of the trappers suffered severely from rheumatism caused by trapping in the cold streams within a very few years and very very few of them ever became rich.

Jim Beckwith (Beckworth?) was a freed Negro who worked his way West and became a chief of a Blackfoot tribe.  After several years he left but eventually returned where he was killed "so that he would be with them forever".

The Indians were considered poor shots as they did not have the extra powder to use for practicing with and they did not have the knowledge or parts to repair the guns but this was made up by shooting at  least 6 arrows a minute with surprising accuracy.

Beliefs and superstitions varied from one tribe or another but the one thing thing that most of them had was a belief in the Great Spirit and a respect for Mother Earth.

Goodbye for now,Grey Squirrel

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