25 April 2013

Curiouser and curiouser!

I'm on a roll this week.

Through the grace of another blogger, The Costumer's Closet, we now have access to Harper Bazaar magazine's treasure trove of past issues. And I mean past issues as in from 1867 to 1900. Digitized. The back issues are from the Cornell University's Mann Library collection. The website is called the Home Economics Archives.  Hearth - a collection devoted to "preserving the Core historical literature of home economics before 1950. The digitization was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2001-2003. You can see them here:


So, I immediately thought of my great grandmother Minnie Mailman Mack, whom I really only know by name and date and a few records. Once again, I really wish that I a) found my passion for genealogy much earlier in my life; b) had been more interested in history when I was in school; c) paid closer attention to my surroundings when I did have a chance to visit her hometown in Nova Scotia; and finally, d) got to know my Mack family relatives that were still living when I was younger. Luckily, I can make the most of what is available now and trust that in the future more resources will be available.

For now I have to imagine what Minnie was like. And today I received a wonderful gift in my blog reader in the form of Harper's Bazaar digitized magazines. I know that Minnie arrived with my grandfather and his siblings in Boston on May 6th, 1896 on the steamship "Boston".

I know that Harper's Bazaar, being a magazine for fashion and fashionableness (yes, well, it should be a word) was probably not the real world that Minnie and her children were stepped off the boat and onto firm ground into. It probably had some gems of value though, so I looked at the May 2, 1896 issue. Imagine - looking at the pages of a magazine that was published the very week that my great-grandmother arrived!

[Well the whole process has a lot of magic in it, but let's ignore the machinations for a bit].

I'm pretty confident that Minnie was not wearing the same kind of clothing that is on the cover. All the same, probably trying to make a good impression on her new host country, she was probably wearing her good outfit. I didn't stop to read the articles - a very bad habit of mine - but did go straight to the advertising pages to see what the masses were being lured into purchasing to make their skin soft, and to look fashionable.

Ivory soap! And a host of other "beauty" products. And bicycles. Big hats are in. Black is the new black. Extract of beef, Eye Water and Vin Mariani for the health. Waltham watches to keep time with. Van Camp's Boston Baked Pork and Beans made in Indianapolis, Indiana, for heaven's sake. Breakfast Cocoa from Walter Baker and Co. from Dorchester, Mass.

I'm thinking I will be spending a lot of time with Harper's Bazaar trying to construct the world as Minnie knew it. Do you know any other periodical that was published around this time in Boston?

I'd love to know about it.

22 April 2013

Don't you love it when the universe conspires to offer you a gift?

I do.

Although this may not be your cup of tea, it is mine.

When I was in my early formative years, and in an inquisitive state of mind, I would go to our bookshelves and choose a book of Punch cartoons that delighted our family, one after another. I'm not at all sure who purchased the book. I'm not sure of the title either, but I am guessing A Century of Punch Cartoons. I would make a bet that it was my mother, who had traveled to England with her mother and was probably exposed to the magazine at that time.

So, I would take down the book, make myself comfy and pour over the cartoons for hours. I loved the drawings, many of which had no captions. I would do my best to puzzle them out. Some drawings were easy to interpret, with a border-free, global and timeless kind of humor. Others were frankly obscure to this young American girl. Regardless of my skill in decoding the cartoons, I do feel that the book was an important contributor to my general education and general personality, and I certainly include it in my life bibliography.

I stumbled across a new blog in my reading this morning, a link which I followed, as I often do, and found my self reading "The Costumer's Closet" blog, http://costumerscloset.blogspot.com authored by Loren Dearborn. I love to find old paintings and drawings of clothing and, particularly, the people in them. To this end, I will pretty much follow any link to find them. I am so impressed with this blog! Especially because it led me to an archive of my favorite magazine, Punch; but not exclusively. Loren likes to create period clothing. And she is good at it.

As I am a handcrafter, much like my mother was, I paint, I draw, I knit and I sew. I cook and I make glass beads. I follow a great tradition of DIYing. Nothing pleases me more than to create something useful and pretty. I find myself combining this handcrafting need with my passion for finding out my family's history.

I know I come from some very interesting characters who had to use their hands to craft a life. Boat builders, sawmill owners, farmers, architects; and countless women who had to create nearly everything in order to raise a family and keep the home fires burning. I probably will never know the details of my relative's lives, but through my own experiences and reading as many diaries of the periods they came from as I can get my hands on, I can get an idea of who these people were, and how they lived their lives.

Excuse me now - I'm going back to read Punch.

21 April 2013

I did it.

1. purchase dna kit - check
2. open box - check
3. read directions - check and check (I never read instructions carefully the first time)
4. spit in bottle - check - repeat as needed (I went to the fridge to get a lemon for inspiration)
5. click the lid to mix the blue goo with spit - check
6. remove goo package and replace with screw on lid - check
7. place in mailer and take to mailbox -check and check
8. listen for mailman to pick up - check
9. register kit online - check
10. wait - check

It really could not have been simpler. I'm not expecting any big surprises - but I am hoping for some new relatives to compare notes with. Wish us luck!