Wednesday, November 23

a boy's thanksgiving day

Serendipitous browsing is a term, commonly used to describe a physical library experience; the accidental find of a useful item that was catalogued and shelved near the item the reader wanted. It has been taken up as one of the benefits of libraries and physical research (rather than online). Others conversely believe online browsing is fantastic for serendipitous learning. Not the exact same thing, but I'll take them both. Myself, love rummaging in a library and finding books you never heard of.

Looking through the cookery/homesteading shelves at the Somerville Public Library found this pamphlet shaped item, The American Frugal Housewife. Dedicated to those who are not ashamed of economy (1833) by Lydia Maria Francis Child.

Have you ever heard of A Boy's Thanksgiving Day?? How about it's common title Over the River and through the Woods? She wrote that too. Child was born in nearby Medford, MA, infact her grandfather's house (of "to grandfather's house we go..." fame) is a mile away from the serendipitous Somerville library shelf. V cool. The lady herself sounds like she was a real force; abolitionist, women's rights activist, opponent of American expansionism, Indian rights activist, author... Remember this is only 50 years after the United States gained independence.


Back to the serendipitous find though; The American Frugal Housewife title prepares you. Plenty of tough love, lack of frivolity and children being "seen and not heard" type of stuff but also definable ways to take care of your possessions, re-use things, grow vegetables etc. The intro sentences are great;
The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments, so that nothing be lost. I mean fragments of time, as well as materials. Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be; and whatever be the size of a family, every member should be employed either in earning or saving money.

'Time is money.' For this reason, cheap as stockings are, it is good economy to knit them. Cotton and woollen yarn are both cheap; hose that are knit wear twice as long as woven ones; and they can be done at odd minutes of time, which would not be otherwise employed. Where there are children, or aged people, it is sufficient to recommend knitting, that it is an employment.

In this point of view, patchwork is good economy. It is indeed a foolish waste of time to tear cloth into bits for the sake of arranging it anew in fantastic figures; but a large family may be kept out of idleness, and a few shillings saved, by thus using scraps of gowns, curtains, &c.
You can see/read it all via googlebooks. Irony of an objectifiying blog recommending a book on frugality does not escape...

2 comments:

randall said...

Now that is Yankee to the core...God bless New England's protestant forebearers.

The Wilder Things said...

wonderful post. i like the last line. i have an old book i'm going to post about tomorrow...they're so romantic.