One of the things that fascinates me is the history of small homey items. They all have a history.

Gloves, for example. They have been around for millenia. Truly. A mural from Knossos (Crete) shows two boxes. One has something on his hands that look like boxing gloves.

People wore gloves in the middle ages. The word glove is from glof.

Elizabeth I used gloves as a fashion statement, wearing gloves ecorated with lace, as above, jewels and embroidery. One source claims she took them on and off to draw attention to her beautiful hands.


Unknown Lady from Elizabethan Period with Gloves - Courtesy Wikipedia ...

Queen Elizabeth 1 gloves are seen for the first time in public and on ...


During the Regency period, as women’s sleeves got shorter, gloves got longer, going to the elbow and beyond.

During the Colonial and Federalist period, gloves were a popular wedding gift.

Even now, in our contemporary period, gloves can be important. Think Michael Jackson and his glove. Or, in a more sobering example, the importance of the glove in the O.J. Simpson trial. So the humble glove has had quite a history.

Goodreads Giveaway – Death in Salem

Today, April 15, I have begun a month long giveaway for Death in Salem.

death in salem



In this fourth offering, Will Rees stops in Salem to pick up some imported cloth for Lydia. Of course he is immediately drawn into a murder investigation.

20 copies up for grabs.

This is to celebrate the upcoming publication of book number five in the Will Rees Canon: The Devil’s Cold Dish. So far reviews have been great.


Upon their return from Salem, Lydia and Will Rees find themselves the targets of a malicious intelligence determined to destroy them.



Kirkus Review

So happy to receive this great review from Kirkus. For the non-librarians among you, Kirkus is one of the big three review sources for public libraries, the other two being Library Journal and Booklist. With limited budgets, libraries buy based partly on reviews.

Really happy with this one.

Author: Eleanor Kuhns

Review Issue Date: April 15, 2016
Online Publish Date: March 30, 2016
Pages: 336
Price ( Hardcover ): $25.99
Price ( e-book ): $12.99
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-250-09335-6
ISBN ( e-book ): 978-1-250-09336-3
Category: Fiction
Classification: Mystery

In the 1790s, a New England weaver tries to solve a murder made to look like his handiwork. Will Rees is always eager to see something new outside the boundaries of Dugard, in the District of Maine. Ever since he helped solve a murder in Massachusetts on his last trip away, he’s been having a hard time settling down to farming. Instead of the tedium of milking and haying, he’d rather work at his loom while he and Lydia, his wife, await the birth of their first child. His sister Caroline wants to move her family in with Rees, though the farmhouse is already crowded with Rees and Lydia’s five adopted children. Her whining demands are hard to withstand, since Rees’ hot temper is partly to blame for the accident that disabled Caroline’s husband and caused her financial distress. Even worse is the town constable’s news that a man with whom Rees had a public fight about politics now lies dead on a rocky hilltop. Although the constable is Rees’ friend, believes him innocent, and wants his help in finding the real killer, a second and even more brutal murder implicates Lydia as well. She was a practicing Shaker who gave up her religion when she married Rees, but the ignorant and superstitious among the townspeople believe whispers that Lydia is a witch. Shocked when he learns who started the rumors and slow to accept how much some of his childhood companions have come to dislike and resent him, Rees must awaken to a painful reality as acts of vandalism threaten to turn into something uglier. An angry mob demanding Lydia’s arrest forces him to take drastic measures for his family’s safety, and when suspicion falls on him for more than one murder, he learns who his real friends are. Kuhns’ fifth dispatch from the early days of a new nation, faster paced than the last installment (Death in Salem, 2015), builds mounting sympathy for its beleaguered leading couple.

Lets talk about pencils

First of all, pencils are not lead pencils. They never have been. I can remember as a child being told not to lick the pencil because lead was poisonous. The center of the wood casing, the drawing medium, is graphite.It always has been.

When discovered, graphite was thought to be a form of lead because of its color. So the word for pencil is several languages means lead pen.

According to Wikipedia, Cumbria England is the only naturally occuring site of pure hard graphite. Until a method of reconstituting graphite powder into a solid form was discovered, England enjoyed a monopoly. Because graphite could be used for lining the molds for cannonballs, the graphite mines were flooded between mining operations, Graphite for pencils had to be smuggled out.

Because the graphite had to be encased in something to use it, sheepskin was used first. Then some time in the late 1500s an Italian couple invented a wooden holder involving a hollowed out stick of juniper wood. A later invention involved two wooden halves that were glued together after the graphite core was inserted.

Even the humble pencil has an amazing history. Who knew?

Writing tools – circa 1795

My first book, A Simple Murder, was written entirely in longhand on lined paper. I can tell you, writing in this way takes a long long time. And the finished product still has to be put onto a computer (unless one wants to type on a typewriter and that’s assuming one can even find such a tool now.)

So, for my second boo, Death of a Dyer, I wrote the entire thing on my laptop. (There are advantages and disadvantages to both but I digress.)

How far we’ve come since Rees’s time.

The quill pen and ink were the approved methods of writing at this time. But paper was valuable and ink expensive. So how did children learn to read and write? I know I had the picture of a slate in my head but Noah Webster says slates were not in common use in schools prior to the Revolution. They came into common use in the late eighteenth century so Rees’s children might have had slates. Rees probably would have used birch bark and would have made his own ink. I can only imagine how pale and unreadable some of those concoctions might have been.

But what about the pencil? Well, although Benjamin Franklin advertised pencils in the early 1700s, they did not become common. First American manufacture of pencils with a graphite core was 1812.

So the frameless slates hung on a string were actually an advance for the early students.

Most of the students were, of course, boys. It was not thought important for girls to learn to read and write, let alone cipher (do arithmetic). Her household duties were far more important. As I have indicated in previous posts, the Shakers were far in advance of this thinking, as they education the girls as well as the boys.

I don’t know if this is true but I read that the shape of the Ipad is based on the slate. Cute.


Schenectady – beyond the pines

I had a workshop this past Saturday in Schenectady. I spoke about writing historical fiction.  Not that I’m an expert but I have learned a few things. I enjoyed sharing some of the tips I’ve learned these past few years.

Unexpectedly, I met an old friend, the Salvation Army officer that married my husband and I almost twenty years ago. He took me on a tour of the city and what a beautiful city it is. This is the city where Thomas Edison started GE. The city was also famous for building locomotives. Bounded by the Mohawk River, it was settled by the Dutch and then a variety of other immigrants. We ate at a long time Schenectady restaurant called Morrette’s. They had the best homemade potato chips.

My favorite part of the city is called Stockade. Why? Well, in the 1600s the early settlers were wiped out by an Indian attack. When they village – and it was a village then – it was enclosed in a Stockade. Really old houses, the oldest in the city, are sited on these streets. Some of them resemble the brick homes one sees in Williamsburg. One white house, the oldest in the city, has been added to over and over so it looks like connected blocks.

Erie street not only follows the path of the Erie canal; it IS the canal, filled in now. I think Will Rees will have to visit Schenectady!

I also want to give a shout out to the Schenectady Public Library. What a beautiful library.