Good old mules

Gilbert and Sullivan’s template for the ‘very model of a modern major-general’ in the Pirates of Penzance was the British Field Marshall Sir Garnet Wolseley. He published The Soldier’s Pocket-Book of Field Service in 1874, which formed the basis of field service regulations in armies around the world. In this book lies a rather dry-looking… Read More

Vets and animal welfare in the West

In May 1932, T. Swann Harding published The Metamorphosis of the Horse Doctor. In it he vividly described the life of a veterinary surgeon in rural Virginia before the 1870s. Carrying a bag of rudimentary instruments that included a knife, a needle and a ball of twine, these animal practitioners charged round their parish in… Read More

Blacksmiths in 19th Century America

“Under a spreading chestnut-tree the village smithy stands; the smith, a mighty man is he, with large and sinewy hands……”. These are the opening words of the poem ‘The Village Blacksmith,’ penned by the American poet William Henry Longfellow in 1840. It is both a tribute to his ancestor Stephen Longfellow, blacksmith, schoolteacher and town… Read More

Black veils and broken hearts: mourning in the Civil War

About 620,000 soldiers died in the American Civil War. Of these, about 360,000 were Union soldiers and 260,000 were Confederates. Not all of them were killed in combat; in fact considerably more than half in both armies perished from disease. But that did not make any difference to the lot of the loved ones they… Read More

Origins and first wave of the Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan, whose name comes from the Greek for circle plus their version of ‘clan’, was started as a social club by a group of Confederate veterans in Tennessee in 1866. Its initial purpose was basically to have fun. Members underwent comical initiationghs in which they were made to wear enormous donkey ears… Read More

Mail-order brides

The term ‘mail-order bride’ is a generic term which covers the different ways in which a man out West could become acquainted with a woman he’d never met and invite her out to marry him. The phenomenon arose because men had moved West to fulfil very masculine roles such as mining and logging, and lived… Read More

What the Civil War did to Texas

Texas joined the Confederates in March 1861 after seeing Abraham Lincoln elected without a single vote from the Southern States, and thus allied itself with the Deep South and its interests. There weren’t may plantation owners in Texas, but those that there were, had a disproportionate influence. The 182,000 black slaves that worked on the… Read More