Blue lap dogs and complaints about Congress

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Some news from 1846 could be ripped from today’s headlines; some makes for glimpse at past.

I recently ran across a copy of the Scientific American from Aug. 6, 1846, not too many months after the Mexican-American War had begun.

The weekly paper billed itself as “The Advocate of Industry and Enterprise, and Journal of Mechanical and other Scientific Improvement,” and contained information about new inventions, both American and European, scientific discoveries and other “curiosities.”

Here are a few tidbits that I found interesting.

It did it all

Rusty Iron Field Engine
An illustration of the wonderful Field Engine, (Sam Moore photo)

On the front page appears an illustration of “THE FIELD ENGINE,” a “machine for harrowing, sowing and rolling at the same time.”

The thing consisted of an 8-foot roller preceded by four rows of harrow teeth. Above the teeth was a smaller roller that was turned by a belt from the larger one.

This small “Sowing Cylinder” contained several small cavities, which were filled with grain from the seed hopper above and then dropped to the ground. The front rows of harrow teeth loosened the soil, while the back teeth covered the seed and the large roller firmed the ground.

Folly of war

In its pages, the following poem illustrated the folly of war: “My father was a farmer good, with corn and beef in plenty. I mowed and hoed, and held the plough, and longed for one-and-twenty. For I had quite a martial turn, and scorned the lowing cattle; I burned to wear a uniform, hear drums and see a battle.

“My birth-day came, my father urged, but stoutly I resisted; my sister wept, my mother prayed, but off I went and ‘listed. They marched me on, through wet and dry, to tunes more loud than charming, but lugging knapsack, box and gun, was harder work than farming.

“We met the foe, the cannons roared, the crimson tide was flowing; the frightful death-groans filled my ears, I wished that I was mowing.

“I lost my leg, the foe came on, they had me in their clutches; I starved in prison till the peace, then hobbled home on crutches.”

Complaining about Congress

Then there was this little complaint about Congress: “ARMY POSTAGE. We mentioned the other day the probability of Congress passing a law to relieve our ill paid army of occupation from letter postage. We ought to have known Congress better. When did that august body ever take a step for the benefit of the ‘common herd?’

“When it was brought forward, Congress had no time to give to it. Our soldiers get 20 cents a day, and each letter costs ten. If they were given to arithmetic they would see on the evening of the day at Palo Alto (the first major battle of the war and an American victory), that each (soldier) had exactly earned the price of a double letter home. Just enough to pay for telling their family where they had gotten a wound or lost a limb for that same twenty cents.

“This is a great country, and it has a magnificent Congress.”

News from abroad

Under “Foreign News” were these items:

“The Royal Mail steamer Hibernia, arrived at Boston, on Monday morning, bringing intelligence of the ratification of the Oregon treaty, under the seal of the new foreign minister, Lord Palmerston. The Autocrat of Russia has resolved to abolish slavery throughout his dominion (somewhat ahead of the U.S.). The new Pope has granted a free pardon to all political offenders. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are preparing for a tour on the continent.”

* * *

Other trivia included, “A man in Cincinnati, who had an awkward turned up nose, recently employed a surgeon to make an improvement thereof by cutting a wedge-shaped piece from the cartilage. This operation was readily performed and the remaining parts were drawn and sewed together, after which the patient took a look at himself, and expressed much satisfaction at his improved countenance. “

* * *

“A lady who had been a minute too long engaged in exchanging compliments with parting friends, on board the steamer Portland, attempted to jump on shore after the boat had left the pier, and was precipitated. Four gallant Yankees instantly jumped into the water, and the lady was rescued, thinking herself well repaid for her ducking, by the marked attention she received.”

* * *

“The Savannah, Ga., papers complain of uncomfortably cold weather, the thermometer ranging as low as 65. They might warm their noses by taking an occasional trip to New York.”

* * *

“Strawberry patches on the Licking River, opposite Cincinnati, cover 108 acres. They supply the city of Cincinnati with 228,000 quarts of berries per season”

* * *

“The ludicrous inconstancy of the Harrisburg, Pa. Presbytery, in forbidding the recreation of dancing, while they countenance the most flagrant practice of crime, is severely noticed by the press.” (It would be interesting to know the crime the author is referred to.)

* * *

“Some Boston genius has introduced the fashion of dying lap-dogs blue, pink, and other fancy colors.”

* * *

“It is stated that no less than two hundred and twenty of the Lowell factory girls have been married within the last year. What is the use of going to Iowa for husbands?”

* * *

“Large, ripe, and excellent watermelons, are abundant in the markets, and are being sold at the stands for one cent a piece — not very large pieces, however. “

Want ads

The classified section contained these ads: “The cheapest office in this city for Dental work. Natural and mineral teeth inserted from $1 to $3.50; Decayed teeth filled with white cement and warranted useful for mastication, 50 cents. Toothache cured effectually without pain, 50 cents. Teeth extracted with less than half the usual pain, 50 cents.”

Then there was the “Locke Portable Shower Bath,” which, the reader was assured, “constitutes a light and genteel article of furniture for a bed-chamber and so perfectly constructed that either a lady or gentleman can at any moment enjoy a copious shower without the aid of servants, and without having a drop of the water sprinkled on the carpet or floor.”

These papers from 100 or more years ago never cease to interest and amuse me — I hope you enjoy them too.

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Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules.

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