In an earlier post, I blogged about the cosmopolitan nature of Salem in the 1790′s, primarily due to merchant men who traveled to the far corners of the globe.
I did not really discuss the multi-ethnicity of Salem itself. Some of that is due to the merchantmen. Salem is home to a large East Indian population, an immigrant colony that began hundreds of years ago.
But some is due to the whaling ships.
The crews of the whaling ships included men (and yes, a few women, disguised as men) from every background. Some came from seafaring families, the profession passed down from father to son. The best harpooners were drawn from the local Native American tribes and were commonly reputed to be the best. (And probably were. The colonists learned the trade from the Indians who had been practicing it for generations from the coast or from small boats). Black sailors were so common they had a special name: the Black Tars. And as immigrants arrived, not only from Europe but also from some of the ports of call, the French, Irish, Portuguese and other men joined the whaling crews.
We always talk about how small the world is now. I doubt we fully realize how much travel and cross-fertilization went on hundreds of years ago.
I recently read an article that claimed that people who worked at home were more efficient. Apparently studies suggest workers waste a lot of time socializing with co-workers.
Well, maybe. As someone who works at home (a writer !) I am not so sure that article is correct. When I write early in the morning, I am uninterrupted. Later in the day, interruptions come fast and furious – anything from phone calls to mail to my husband. And I have found the interruptions even more constant with the beginning of the holidays.
We had 16 guests for a total of 18 people; 9 adults and 9 kids. (I won’t describe the ruin of my basement.) Prep and purchasing Christmas presents for family members who won’t be with us for that occasion, have absorbed at least a month.
Some of the dinner conversation concerned shopping on Thanksgiving itself, whether the store should open or not. Pretty much everyone agreed that it was terrible and no one planned to shop. They couldn’t anyway, since they were at my house, and the final guest left at 9:30 pm.
That sparked my interest in Thanksgiving. I mean, everyone knows the story about the Pilgrims and the Indians who came to the first Thanksgiving. I always believed this holiday continued on in an unbroken line since 1621. Well, not so much. Until the time of Lincoln, Thanksgiving’s date varied depending upon the state. And some states did not observe it at all. The final Thursday in November did not become the usual date until the 1800′s. President Lincoln declared by proclamation that all states should observe Thanksgiving on the same date in 1863. Since this was during the Civil War, I would guess many of the Southern states elected not to comply.
Anyway, during the later third of the 19th century, the final Thursday in November became Thanksgiving. Ah, but we celebrate it the fourth Thursday. Yes, we do. Franklin Roosevelt changed the date in 1941 in an effort to give the economy a boost. He thought the extra time before Christmas might give people more time to shop.
I wonder what he would think of this most recent change.
The Industrial Revolution mechanized the entire process of cloth making. According to Brouty, prior to the invention of the flying shuttle in the 1750′s, three to four spinners were needed to produce enough yarn for a weaver. The statistic I’ve read other places is nine. Anyway, many spinners are needed for each weaver. The flying shuttle, again according to Brouty, quadrupled the weaver’s output. If you think that then people would try to find a way to increase the yield of the spinners, you would be right. The spinning jenny was invented in the mid 1700s and the first spinning factory was set up in 1761 by a gentleman named Richard Arkwright. Samuel Compton invented the spinning mule ten years later (unfortunately for him, he was a talented inventor that had his life threatened several times and died in poverty) and now handweavers were hard pressed to keep up. Pressure mounted for a mechanical loom that could keep up with the spinning machines.
Hand spinning and weaving, a honored and important job (primarily done by women) became a ‘craft’. Most people don’t even think of the connection between the clothing on their backs and the process by which it got there.
The jack loom is a horizontal loom; i.e. the warp runs horizontally and most of the size is front to back, not up and down. The weaver can sit on a bench. With the vertical looms, like those still used in Scandinavia and previously in Greece, the warp threads hang down and the weaver must stand on a stool or the floor itself must be lowered to provide enough room.
A loom this size could easily be put into the back of a wagon and transported from place to place, as I have my main character/detective doing in my historical mysteries. This is a back view, by the way. The white canvas is for the back apron. I prefer to have my finished cloth roll up on the back beam so i tie on the warp threads to the back and then thread them through the heddles and the reed.
Heddles; what are they? I’ve mentioned them several times and then someone emailed me and said I don’t know what heddles are. Well, mine are long metal wires with an eye exactly like a needle. Mine are made of metal, but the looms I saw in Greece had thread heddles. I think I would find weaving with those confusing.
In the first photo, it is possible to see three of the four sheds. Each one has its own set of heddles. Threaded and tied up to the treadles, these sheds make it possible to weave many patterns.
And finally, the reed. The dents, or spaces, determine the fineness of the fiber and is another mechanism for keeping each thread smooth and untangled. I hope you can see the spaces here. Weaving with silk, for example, requires a reed with many many slots,
My husband and I just returned from Greece. Partly research, partly vacation. Anyway, I spent some time looking at looms. The vertical loom seems to have disappeared. At least I didn’t see any. The looms I saw were similar to the jack loom I own, except less sophisticated. Instead of metal heddles ( the needle like things that the warp threads go through), these looms used string. Instead of a castle, or upper frame that holds the heddles, posts were erected on each side. And instead of five treadles, these looms only had two. Only simple weaving could be done with these. Like my loom, however, these treadles are tied up to the sheds so that the threads are raised and lowered in turn.
Had an appointment to talk with my editor at Bouchercon. Sounds simple, right?
Well, let me tell you about driving in Albany. The Hilton was not on any of the maps I had and the GPS sent us to a Hilton on the other side of the city. Mapquest and the GPS both send the driver along Washington Ave – which just stops!
Once I got to the Hilton I roamed around outside looking for the door in. Finally, some kind cleaner let me in the back door. The hotel is so modern it is difficult to find unnecessary items like doors.
After my meeting, I walked over to the Egg for my panel discussion. Very interesting and fun and I was really impressed by my panel mates: M. E. Kemp, Leslie Wheeler, Simone St. James, and Mel Bradshaw. After the panel I wandered around, ate lunch, went to the book room, and discovered to my horror that I had a line waiting for me to sign books
Yipes! Memo to self: always be prepared to sign.
I hope I do better next year in California!
One of the new experiences that came with my new status as a published writer is writers’ conferences. Been to many librarian conferences but these are new. This is my second Bouchercon and I greatly enjoy them. Yesterday, before the opening ceremonies, I attended the annual party given my Minotaur (St. martin’s Press/Macmillan) for the authors. I cannot fully describe the thrill of seeing some of the rock stars of the writing world. Julia Spencer-Fleming, Louise Penney, Charles Finch. I met for the first time some of those who’ve reviewed my books: Lourdes Venata, Oline Coghill. The party was held on a veranda overlooking the city of Albany, and what a beautiful view it was too.
All in all, a really great experience.