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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Female Pinkerton Agents

I've talked a little about what I've learned from researching female Pinkerton Agents, but I'm going to focus this blog mainly on the one woman who made Allan Pinkerton sit up and take notice.  (previous article about Pinkerton Agents)

Kate Warne was born in New York and was widowed at the age of 23.  She was described as having clear cut, expressive features. She had an honest face, which helped those in distress look upon her as their confidant.

According to the article I read about Kate, she responded to a newspaper ad from Allan Pinkerton who was trying to recruit more detectives. She walked into the Pinkerton office and wanted a job. They first thought she wanted an office, job, but when she stated she wanted to be an agent, they were shocked.

Pinkerton decided to test Kate to see what she could do, so in 1858, Kate Warne was assigned to the case of Adams Express Company and embezzlements. She quickly became a close acquaintance of the wife of Pinkerton's prime suspect, Mr. Maroney. By becoming Maroney's wife's friend, Kate was able to collect evidence that eventually led to his conviction.  Maroney had stolen $50,000 from the Adams Express Company, and with Kate's help, $39,515 of that was returned.

In 1860, Allan Pinkerton put Kate in charge of his new Female Detective Bureau.

I'd mentioned in some of my previous blog posts, that I had written a female Pinkerton romance that is part of a multi-author series. "An Agent for Cecily" has been released and it's receiving RAVING reviews!!  I fashioned my character after Kate Marne, because Cecily is headstrong, and she does what she feels is right in ANY situation.

There’s only one way to escape Cecily Sheldon’s insane family – take on someone else’s identity. Along with this new identity comes a new job. Of course, to become a Pinkerton Agent, she must marry a male agent who will train her. Now she needs to keep her true identity hidden from Broderick Tanner for fear he’ll arrest her along with her father and brothers. Perhaps living a double life wasn’t a good choice after all.

Available on KINDLE and on Kindle Unlimited. Click here

To read an excerpt click here.


Marie Higgins is a best-selling author of Christian and sweet romance novels; from refined bad-boy heroes who make your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. She has over 50 heartwarming on-the-edge-of-your-seat stories, and broadened her readership by writing mystery/suspense, humor, time-travel, paranormal, along with her love for historical romances. Her readers have dubbed her "Queen of Tease", because of all her twists and unexpected endings.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Those Wassailing Wastrels! - 12th Night Traditions

Wassailing Engraving

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.

There is nothing sinister in those words, one would think. For most people, this is a quaint, old-fashioned Christmas carol with lyrics that most people don't understand. In some places, "wassailing" has been changed to "Christmas-ing" or "singing" or "caroling." Changing that one word actually make the song make even less sense, believe-it-or-not. 

The word "wassail" is an ancient word, though there is some disagreement about where it began, we can find mention of it as far back as the 1300's. It started out as a word of greeting - a salutation of health, especially used when people were in their cups (or wanted to be). According to, "Anglo-Saxon tradition dictated that at the beginning of each year, the lord of the manor would greet the assembled multitude with the toast waes hael." 

You can even find the word mentioned in Shakespeare's Hamlet, when the depressed prince is muttering about the king. "The king doth wake to-night, and takes his rouse,/Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels..." (Act I, Scene IV)

Later, in about the 1700's in England, wassailing meant a specific activity: caroling house to house and begging for food, money, or entertainment. 

Wassailing could get rough, likely depending on the culture of the neighborhood and the sort of group one got together for the event. Modern evidence has found that young men might get together and carouse, more than carol. 

From the above carol, here's another verse: 

Bring us out a table
And spread it with a cloth;
Bring us out a mouldy cheese,And some of your Christmas loaf

And who can forget the carol with the lines, "O bring us a figgy pudding" and "we won't go until we get some." Yes, wassailers could come demanding what they thought their due - more alcohol, coins, and food. If they didn't get what they wanted, some groups were noted to resort to vandalism of the house that would not provide. But that brings us to this part of our song:

We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door;
But we are neighbours' children,
Whom you have seen before.

On the whole, though, wassailing was a tradition wherein the poor of the neighborhood could come together and ask, in a socially acceptable manner, for a hand-out. In return, they would leave their blessing upon the house that offered charity. 

The refrain from our song: 

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Generally speaking, people would go "wassailing" usually on Twelfth Night. We could write several articles alone on the traditions surrounding that portion of the Christmas holiday season. 

Sometimes in the middle of the 19th century, wassailing and caroling merged. They were two separate events, one meant to edify the listeners and the other meant as a way to go about begging. In North America, however, it's not uncommon to offer carolers a special treat when they grace your doorstep. 

It's an interesting tradition, and while singing Christmas songs and hymns at the doors of our neighbors has been going on for several centuries, there was some fear that the tradition would die out - in 1822 a gentleman named William Hone wrote: "Carols begin to be spoken of as not belonging to this century and yet no one, that I am aware of, has attempted a collection of these fugitives." Hone printed a list of 89 carols, but neglected to include lyrics or music. Many of those carols are now lost to time. 

If you find yourself curious about the wassail songs of old, many are listed (with links for listening) on Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Link below.

So next time you hear carolers, be friendly and warm, appreciate their music, and be grateful you didn't live in an age when a wassail meant feeding a crowd of people in order to avoid having your house and kitchen ransacked. :-)

Historic UK: Wassailing
Etymology Online
Hymns and Carols of Christmas
Kentucky New Era
Wikipedia Article with Great Sources
Wikipedia on Twelfth Night
Recipe for Wassail (Yup, it was a special drink too.)

Sally Britton is the author of six historical romance titles, set in the Regency time period. All six can be found on her author page at Sally regularly discusses writing, research, and her work on her Facebook reader group - and all are welcome to join.

Snowmen: a modern-day pasttime or ancient ritual?

by Donna Hatch

Recently on one of my writers groups had a lively discussion regarding whether or not people built snowmen during the Regency. After all, it seems such a natural thing to do with a practically limitless source of building materials. Surely people had as strong a desire then as they do now to build snowmen, forts, animals, and simple snowballs to throw at one another using the nature’s art supplies. However, often our assumptions about what has "always been" is incorrect, hence the discussion.
It turns out, the idea of snowmen is ageless. Children of all ages have built snowmen since the beginning of man. The Etymology dictionary says the word snowman wasn't in print until 1827 but it is such a natural term that it likely appeared in speech ages before anyone thought to write about children (or adults) playing in the snow.

In 2007, Bob Eckstein, the author of The History of the Snowman: From the Ice Age to the Flea Market, told NPR that in writing his book, “...snowman-making actually was a form of folk art. Mankind was making folk art like this for ages, and…maybe it’s one of man’s oldest forms of art…The further back you go, you find that people were really fascinated with snowmen.”

Eckstein says that building snowmen was “a very popular activity in the Middle Ages…after a snow came down and dumped all these free-art supplies in front of everyone’s house.” The earliest known representation of a snowman dates to that era, drawn in a 1380 A.D. Book of Hours.

 Readers Digest reports in 1494, Michelangelo was commissioned by Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Gran Maestro of Florence, to create his art with snow. According to art historian Giorgio Vasari, “de’ Medici had Michelangelo make in his courtyard a statue of snow, which was very beautiful.” Sadly, no one seems to have drawn it for posterity.

The Wikipedia page for Snowman shows a European woodcut from the 1500s of people dancing around a snowman. With this many sources, building snowmen was surely an ageless pastime when enough snow arrived on the scene.

The only real trouble with historical characters is that there wasn't that much snow in all parts of England every year. However, if a place had enough snow, it stands to reason that children--as well as playful adults--would have built whatever they could and given it an appropriate name.

Do you still run out and play in the snow during the first big snowfall?


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Victorian Christmas

One thing I have bemoaned time and again is the lack of Christmas traditions in Regency England. During the Regency Christmas celebrations were usually quiet family affairs that included going to church on Christmas Day, some greenery for decorations (including mistletoe but not a tree), a Yule log, and perhaps a present or two for children.

Once Queen Victoria ascended the throne, however, Christmas began to be much more merry and bright.

One of the first traditions to emerge that continues until today, is the Christmas card. This tradition was begun by Sir Henry Cole, an assistant at the newly founded Public Record Office (Post Office). He had an artist friend create cards, advertised as “Christmas Congratulations Cards” that sold for a shilling each. The cards could be sent for a penny and by the 1860s were cheap enough for most people of the middle class to send.

Victoria and Albert began another wonderful custom—the Christmas tree. A German tradition brought to England by George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, the Christmas tree didn’t catch on until Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert (also German) began celebrating the yuletide with a
decorated tree. When the Illustrated London News published an engraving of Victoria and Albert and their children gathered around a Christmas tree in 1848, the popularity of the Christmas tree rose sharply. Technological advances enhanced the tradition by providing hundreds of different types of sparkly ornaments to hang on the tree, along with homemade sweet treats, small presents, and candles.

Another near and dear Christmas tradition arose in t e 1860s: The Christmas cracker. These little tubes, stuffed with small trinkets and candies, made a resounding “bang” when pulled apart and quickly became a staple of the season.

The emphasis placed on family by the Victorians lead to the traditional Christmas dinner, with all the family gathered around the table. Food was the centerpiece of the Victorian Christmas dinner and included roast goose with sage and onion stuffing (in the South), standing rib of beef (in the North), Yorkshire pudding, oysters, ham, turkey, potatoes, mince pies, plum pudding. The making and serving of the Plum Pudding was quite a ritual that began several days before Christmas and culminated with the cooking, cutting, and eating of it.
After dinner people continued to celebrate with presents, singing, shooting off firecrackers, and playing games.

All in all a much merrier time was had by all during the Victorian period.

Merry Christmas to all! God bless us, everyone!

“The History of Christmas Cards.”
“Victorian Christmas Traditions,” from Christmas at the V & A.
“Common Victorian Times Christmas Food: roasted goose and pudding.” The Victorian Era Facts about Queen Victoria, Society and Literature. Victorian Era Organization.