The Civil War Connections Blog

A new blogger, bubbles, and laundry, oh my!

I’d like to introduce a new blogger into our ranks today. She goes by the pen name of ‘My Musings’ and I have asked her to delve deeply into the popular press of the 1860s to find things of interest – things that might make you stop and think – wow, they did that/had that/thought that then? I am posting her intro blog here – but following blog entries will be under her name. Enjoy!


So, here I am creating a blog for The Mariners’ Museum, a really new event in my life, almost as new as using the computer.  But then I have to confess up front that I am not a juvenile, but almost an octogenarian.  So, I ask those reading this to please give me some slack.

Today, I want to write about “change” and by that I mean just about anything which saw radical change (or improvement, depending on your preference) occur  during the 1860’s that we today have inherited.  Most of the differences I think will reflect upon improved standards of living as those are the ones which are still with us today.  Those which passed the scene in the same time period quite obviously had flaws making them more or less unacceptable.  Perhaps it’s the fact that my life began exactly half the number of years since the Civil War attack on Fort Sumter. It has given me pause to encounter this fact.  I am after all, of the 21st century, and have eagerly embraced this era.  Just remember, almost 400 women fought in the Civil War, all masquerading as men, while today, many thousands of women serve in the military, at all sorts of jobs, some even “in harms’ way.” 

But I digress from my thesis.  Two simple examples come to mind.  One is a substance to create air bubbles in cake batter and a second is doing laundry.  In the first, after several attempts at creating the right balance of chemicals, the correct one was found, and today, we use essentially the same formula and it works fine.  Of course, prior generations of women used egg whites mostly well beaten by hand with a spoon.  Then a commercially produced leavening product was manufactured which is on grocer’s shelves everywhere. 

Patent for Hiram Littlejohn's Umbrella-style clothes drier

Patent for Hiram Littlejohn’s Umbrella-style clothes drier – January 7, 1862

For the second product, I am speaking of an improvement on the line* strung between two trees on which freshly washed garments and linens were hooked with handmade wooden pins and hung in the sun to dry.  While a few are still occasionally seen in back yards most have given way to electric dryers.  This apparatus looks rather like an inverted umbrella, sans cloth, and a central pole pushed firmly into the ground allowing it to stand upright; it also could rotate allowing the person doing the work to stand in one place rather than move around the device.  And the many lines strung between the ribs allowed a great deal of laundry to hang in one rather confined place, especially if it was in a metropolitan area, where rear yards were often small.  Without doubt, every Monday, which was designated wash day, would have to be dry and sunny; today we never give the weather a thought; for that matter we never even think of the time of day as we live in a 24/7 world.  Even as recently as before WWII, laundry was a fair weather activity.  Boy did 1950 see change and today it is our inheritance.  Lucky us, don’t you think?

*Drier article and picture:  Umbrella style, by Hiram Littlejohn, patent Jan 7, 1862