Reading : Olden Days Books & Loving Their Photos

I know that many bloggers routinely post about the books that they are currently reading. My tastes are eclectic…you might find me reading old novels by D.E. Stevenson or reading and researching on the Net about ancient religions, archeology, and what-have-you. I am all over the place :)

Occasionally I retreat to my books of simpler times…and thought I’d do a share.

I love olden days / historical types of books and this one is wonderful. I will show a few pictures from it and here is the description from the back : THE KITCHEN —at times a harried work space and at others the sentimental heart of the home..has always played an important role in our lives. This lavishly illustrated book tells the story of America’s kitchens from New England hearths to Spanish colonial kitchens, from detached kitchens on plantations in the South to open plans of the 1950s suburbs, up to today’s varied styles “

It truly is ‘lavishly illustrated” …..198 pages of eye candy if you like this sort of book.

Next up is ” Our Own Snug Fireside”  and it is about New England from 1760-1860.  Fascinating read. Many illustrations but you have to be in to history to enjoy it. I did enjoy it very many of the primary sources are the writings of women diarists….there are many interesting details of their households and management, social life, etc.  As the book jacket describes  ” Through them Jane Nylander opens the doors of their houses and reveals the complex reality that was everyday life in Old New England.”

Early American History was generally B-O-R-I-N-G when I was young and in school. This was wonderful…not a boring minute in the book.


Going further back in time…. “Daily Life in a Victorian House” It’s sort of a “Downton Abbey” book because as the book jacket explains you ” Discover how a wealthy family and their servants really lived….Daily Life in a Victorian House chronicles a day in the life of the Smith family, from the moment when the housemaid struggles wearily out of bed to light the fires, to the moment when the last candle is snuffed out and the house is once more at rest. ” This one is very picture heavy and so very interesting to view and read. It is simple enough to get a grade schooler interested…I think it could be used for a book report for a grade school or early middle school child if applicable to something they are studying.

Finally, there is nothing like a good memoir and “The Spencers of Amberson Avenue” is one of the best I’ve ever read. I was revisiting it recently…and that is what inspired me to do this Olden Days post :)

I reside south of Pittsburgh in western PA. This book is of particular interest to me because it revolves around middle-class life at the turn of the century in a large Victorian house in Shadyside, a Pittsburgh neighborhood. Mr. Spencer was a middle-management employee working for Henry Clay Frick.  The book is written through the eyes of Ethel Spencer, the third daughter.

Luckily Mr. Spencer was an amateur photographer, so the book has many photographs. If you like a good memoir or historical biography, this book is a gem.  I purchased it online….there are a lot of used books available through Amazon.

There is so much of interest about the daily life back then; for instance, the sleeping arrangements of a family of nine. The children doubled up in beds, separated by a bolster. Of course they had bolster fights each evening !:)

Housekeeping difficulties :  ” Though lace curtains stretching from ceiling to floor hung at most of our windows, they had a look of austerity in the parlor that they had nowhere else. Mother spent hours pinning ten-foot long curtains to stretchers when they had to be washed–which was about twice a month in those days of uncontrolled smoke. ”

Religion : ” After Sunday School on Sunday afternoons we went home to a four o’clock dinner, followed by a period devoted to memorizing passages of Scripture.”

So there was church, then Sunday School, Scripture memorization, a Bible reading time  with the grandfather, and then Sunday evening church services. The older children had to attend the evening service, and the younger ones could stay home but the only game they were permitted to play was “the Bible game”. This game was simply cards with questions about the Bible. Ethel recalls that the only pleasant part of Sunday was when her mother sat at the piano, late afternoon after dinner, and played hymns and they sang along.

Clothing : ” When it became absolutely necessary, new clothes were supplied, but since no decent ready-made garments were available for girls, to get hold of what we needed was not easy.  Even some of our underwear had to be made at home, and in consequence Mother spent much of her life at the sewing machine. ” Ethel further describes how her mother needed help in regards to fancy dresses and was often having troubles securing the professional help of a seamstress. It is interesting to read that the fee for a seamstress to come into the home and work all day was 1.75 !

” If the seamstress were any good, she supplied ideas, cut out the materials Mother had provided, put together the pieces, and fitted the lucky owner. Mother took out bastings, made buttonholes, sewed on buttons and hooks and eyes, whipped seams, and put the final finish on the garment. ”

These ( above )  are just a few snippets …the editors describe the book as ” a fascinating insight into one kind of urban life of three generations ago.” 

The book has many wonderful and interesting photos such as these. If you can find the book in your local library or from a  bookseller online I’d highly recommend it if you like memoirs or are interested in ‘the olden days’ .

By the way, as a quilter, I always enjoy Kyles’ posts over at Timeless Reflections because she includes so many ‘olden day’ photos in her posts…

You might also enjoy :  Potatoes in Days Gone By   or   Puttin’ Up & Eatin’ Food in Days Gone By  or  Family Tree : The Old Homestead

Sharing at : Savvy Southern Style

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11 Responses to Reading : Olden Days Books & Loving Their Photos

  1. Nana Diana says:

    I like books like that, Deb. I read all over the place,too. I like historical books and really enjoy reading about generations before us–what they did and how their lives intertwined with the land and their families. How the women’s lives revolved around their families and their homes—especially their kitchens.
    Hope you have a great night-xo Diana

  2. Deb, I just love to read! The books you shared look so interesting and informative. The pictures show us how life was back “then”!

  3. Pam says:

    Not much of a reader these days but when I was younger I read all the time. These days I usually do the audio CDs and listen in the car. Looks like you have got a real interesting one you are reading.

  4. Joyce says:

    Very interesting! I have an antique Hoosier cupboard and several quaint utensils. They transport me back to the days you describe here. Each era has its own oddities. Before microwave ovens, everyone defrosted meat by leaving frozen packages in the sink all day – eww! bacteria! And my mother spent hours at the ironing board trying to keep 3 daughters in freshly pressed clothes. I wonder what things we routinely use today will eventually show up in books like these? Fascinating!

  5. Judy says:

    I remember those curtain stretchers and of course, Mother had criss-cross curtains in every room.

  6. Oh my goodness, this is just so sweet! I remember criss cross curtains! I am really going back to the olden days. No offensive to others but these minimalist designers U G H U G H ! I hate the thought of a home being sterile like an operating room! Recently I purchased a canvas of the painting “The Gleaners, by the French artist Jean-Francois Millet. Both my hubby and I grew up with that painting in both of our parents living rooms. I love reading this post and thank you very much for sharing. Have a great week!

  7. Simpler times that required common sense and hard work. I was watching all the people walking on the beach today for exercise and actually said to my husband that years ago no one had to walk for exercise because they worked from dawn to dusk. :-)

  8. Kim says:

    My kind of books…I’m an eclectic reader, too. :)

  9. Sweet Marie says:

    I tell my grandma all the time that I can’t imagine how she kept up with everything back in the day.
    happy days!

  10. Margie Miller says:

    I just finished “Hidden Figures”. Then Karan and I went to see the movie. It was a very interesting book about four black women who worked on the space program as mathematicians. I highly recommend the book as well as the movie.

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