March 27, 2017

Living in the Past: Ruth Goodman Shows Us How It’s Done

What was it like to live in the Tudor age or the 1940s? Would you rather “watch” the answer or “read” it? Well, you can do both with these popular BBC historical documentary series and their companion books.

ruth-goodmanRuth Goodman is known to BBC watchers as the woman who brings history to life in several documentary series. They’re all re-creations of rural life in a certain time period: the Tudor era, Victorian era, Edwardian era (which many of us know better as the Downton Abbey era) and even World War II. All of the series have episodes you can watch on YouTube for free. A couple of them also have companion books that give you the nitty-gritty–sometimes literally–in print.

Time for a little binge-watching (or reading!)! Below, you will find a sample episode from each series, along with the companion book and a link to watch more episodes on YouTube.

Tudor Monastery Farm

how-to-be-a-tudor-ruth-goodmantudor-monastery-farm-ruth-goodmanTudor Monastery Farm is the official companion volume to the series. You’ll follow Ruth and her co-stars “as they discover how to build a pigsty, brew their own ale, forge their own machinery, and keep a Tudor household. Scrupulously researched, totally authentic, and with its own contemporary narrative playing out within an accurate reconstruction of Tudor England, this is a fantastic glimpse into history, as it was lived.”

Ruth’s more scholarly How to Be a Tudor riveted me–and I didn’t expect it to. My historical imagination doesn’t generally extend that far back in time. Ruth captured the little things that are so big like what it’s like not to bathe, how the food tastes, and how itchy the clothes are. When she waxed rapturous about studying a suit of clothing that was several hundred years old and falling apart in an archive, I felt an almost primal connection. I get that way about old documents. I’m just saying.

Watch more Tudor Monastery Farm here.

Victorian Farm

how-to-be-a-victorian-ruth-goodman

How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life is another critically-acclaimed “manual for the insatiably curious” by the “historian who believes in getting her hands dirty.” This time she reveals Victorian life (the mid and late 1800s) from daybreak to bedtime. Again, the devil and the delightful are in the details: how they got dressed, how and when and what they ate, and what work they did. I’m guessing nobody skips the chapters on the trip to the privy or “behind the bedroom door.”

Watch more Victorian Farm here.

Edwardian Farm

edwardian-farm-by-ruth-goodman“If variety is the spice of life, then Edwardian rural life has proved to be one heck of a curry.” -Ruth Goodman

In this series and the Edwardian Farm book, Ruth and her intrepid co-time-travelers live in England’s West Country as if it’s the turn of the twentieth century. At the time this was “a commercially prosperous region—a stunning rural landscape encompassing rolling farmland, wild moorland, tidal river, coast, and forest, which supported a vibrant and diverse economy.” The hosts spend a year “restoring boats, buildings, and equipment; cultivating crops; fishing; rearing animals; and rediscovering the lost heritage of this fascinating era as well as facing the challenges of increasingly commercial farming practices, fishing, and community events.”

Watch more Edwardian Farm here.

Wartime Farm

wartime-farm-by-ruth-goodmanDuring World War II, Britain couldn’t import much produce or other foodstuff as they were accustomed, so residents had to grow it themselves or go without. The series and the book Wartime Farm reveal “how our predecessors lived and thrived in difficult conditions with extreme frugality and ingenuity. From growing your own vegetables and keeping chickens in the back yard, to having to ‘make do and mend’, many of the challenges faced by wartime Britons have resonance today.”

Watch more Wartime Farm here.

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

This post was inspired by our current Genealogy Gems Book Club author, Sarah Chrisman. She, too, is an expert on living in the past. The difference is that her Victorian lifestyle isn’t just a year-long experiment but her chosen way of life. Lisa Louise Cooke interviewed her recently about Victorian holiday traditions in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episode 198. In the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 142, which requires a Genealogy Gems Premium membership to access, Sarah talks about her memoirs, This Victorian Life and Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present and Myself.

genealogy book club family history readingClick here to see what other gems the Genealogy Gems Book Club has to recommend!

Victorian Fruit Cake Recipe: Tasty and Tasteful

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

This recipe for a Victorian fruit cake skips the poor-quality candied fruit that gives some pre-made modern fruitcakes a bad reputation (especially in the US). Instead, fresh coconut, citron and almonds fill this cake to bursting with natural flavors and textures. 

This holiday season, Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman is helping us celebrate all things Victorian, especially recipes! Keep reading to find links to the Victorian holiday recipes we’ve shared recently. In this post: a fruit cake that lives up to its history as a rich, flavorful dessert that’s worthy of the season.

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Sarah Chrisman shared this recipe for a white fruit cake with us, along with this picture of her cracking a coconut in preparation for making this dish:

“Stir to a cream one pound of butter and one pound of powdered sugar. Add the beaten yolks of twelve eggs, one pound of flour and two teaspoons of baking powder. Grate one coconut, blanch and chop one-half pound of almonds, and slice one-half pound of citron and stir into the stiffly beaten white of the eggs and add to the batter. Put in pan lined with buttered paper, and bake slowly two hours.” -By Mrs. W.S. Standish, Plymouth Union Cook Book, 1894. pp. 56-57.

 

 

Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to blanch almonds:

What is citron? It’s a citrus fruit that is something like a lemon. According to this blog post on using citron in fruitcakes, it’s not always easy to find fresh citrons, but you can ask at your best local markets for a supplier near you or look for high-quality prepared citron that can be shipped to you.

More Victorian holiday recipes

victorian-coasting-cookiesHomemade cranberry sauce and hearty vegetable hash

Victorian pumpkin pie: light and delectable

Coasting cookies (shown here)

Traditional (and tasty) fig pudding

this-victorian-lifeGenealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman will join host Lisa Louise Cooke in the December Genealogy Gems and Genealogy Gems Premium podcasts to talk about her everyday Victorian lifestyle. Check out her memoir, This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in Nineteenth-Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion and Technologies or several other books she’s written about the era (both fiction and nonfiction).

Victorian Fig Pudding Recipe: “We All Want Some Figgy Pudding”

fig-pudding-lead-imageVictorian expert Sarah Chrisman shares her adaptation of a classic “figgy” pudding recipe, a holiday staple in Victorian times. Don’t be fooled by its inelegant appearance: there’s a reason carolers sang, “We won’t go until we get some!”

sarah-chrismanThis holiday season we are sharing Victorian recipes, in celebration of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman. Sarah lives her life like it’s the late 1880s. She’ll join us on the Genealogy Gems podcast and Premium podcast in December to tell us all about it–click here to learn more. Meanwhile, enjoy her delicious recipe for a classic fig pudding and a tutorial video that demonstrates making it the old-fashioned way.

“Figgy Pudding” Recipe

“One pound of figs cut fine, imported ones are best but dried domestic ones will answer, one and a half pounds of bread crumbs, one-half pound chopped suet [vegetarian alternative: 8 oz coconut oil, melted and mixed into bread crumbs], twelve ounces moist sugar [brown sugar], a little nutmeg [1 tsp.], two eggs, one teacup of milk.  Mix all together and steam four hours [in a pudding bag].” –Plymouth Union Cook Book, 1894. p. 86.

Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to prepare a “figgy pudding” recipe in the old-fashioned way:

fig-pudding-with-sauce-sarah-chrismanHard Sauce for Puddings

“Beat one egg and half a cup of sugar until very light, then add two tablespoons of softened butter; beat until it will stay piled on a plate; grate in a little nutmeg and put in a very cold place until served.” –Plymouth Union Cook Book, 1894. p.98

More Victorian holiday recipes

Roast Thanksgiving turkey with chestnut stuffing and gravy

Homemade cranberry sauce and hearty vegetable hash

Victorian pumpkin pie: light and delectable

Coasting cookies

 

Victorian Holiday Recipe: Coasting Cookies

victorian-coasting-cookiesSarah Chrisman shares a favorite Victorian holiday recipe just in time for baking season! These “coasting cookies” bring to mind the cold-cheeked fun of sledding in the chilly air of winter.

This holiday season, we’re celebrating all things Victorian with our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman. She and her husband Gabriel live like it’s 1889–and have become first-hand experts on Victorian life. Here, Sarah shares a favorite Victorian holiday recipe for “coasting cookies” and the story behind it. The original recipe appears below, edited to a modern recipe format, along with Sarah’s notes (in parentheses) on adapting the recipe for modern cooking.

Victorian Holiday Recipe: Coasting Cookies

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Image (and closeup image above) courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Ingredients:
1 pound flour (3 1/3 cups)
8 oz butter (1 cup, softened)
1/2 pint molasses (1 cup)
1 Tbsp (baking) soda, beaten very hard in the molasses
1 Tbsp coriander seed, pounded in a mortar
(crushing whole seeds retains more flavor)
1 Tbsp (whole) carraway [sic], pounded in a mortar
(yields about 1 3/4 Tbsp when crushed)
ginger to taste (1 Tbsp powdered ginger)

Original instructions:
1. Soften the butter.
2. Stir in the molasses, ginger, seeds, and flour.
3. Roll thin and cut.
4. Bake in a quick oven.

 

coasting-cookies-comment

Sarah’s updated Coasting Cookies instructions:
1. Crush the caraway and coriander together,
add the ginger and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat the molasses and baking soda 2-3 minutes; it will turn a very pretty pale caramel color as the alkaline soda reacts with the acid in the molasses.
3. Add the butter and flour and mix well.
4. Bake 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees.

 

The Original recipe appears in In the Kitchen by Elizabeth S. Miller. (Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1875), p. 365.

Ladies' Toboggan Race, Kiandra, c. 1884–1917. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view with citation.

Ladies’ Toboggan Race, Kiandra, c. 1884–1917. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view with citation.

Sarah explains the story behind “coasting cookies:”

Gabriel was attracted to this recipe because the word ‘coasting’ in the name put him in mind of bicycles.  However, it turned out to be a sledding reference, as seen in this excerpt from an 1877 short story:

“‘Coasting’ and snow-balling were the bloom and glow of those long, icy months; and the very thought of my youthful exploits in these cold Vermont days makes the blood tingle in my veins…  [T]here were lots of ‘fellers,’ small boys, so utterly extinguished beneath their big caps and mufflers, that, to the uninitiated, it would seem necessary to dig them out, like potatoes out of a hill, before they could be recognizable. Well, these ‘fellers’… had glorious times together, and considered it the great business of life in winter to coast, and skate, and fire snow-balls, being somewhat apt to resent such interruptions as going to school, doing ‘chores,’ or eating regular meals.”—Church, Ella Rodman.  “A Story of “Doughnuts,” Petersen’s Magazine, July, 1877,  p. 65.

love-will-find-a-wheel-by-sarah-chrismanAlthough they were originally named for the sport of sledding, Gabriel and I found them to be equally delicious after cycling expeditions. Consequently, in my Tales of Chetzemoka cycling club series, these cookies are special favorites with the club members. Here’s a fun excerpt from Book Two, Love Will Find A Wheel:

…”You’re all coming here afterwards, aren’t you?”  She asked the club in general.  “My sewing circle ladies will be here again.”

Mr. Goldstein leaned on his fifty-inch wheel and laughed.  “Since my wife will be here I won’t get much peace if I don’t come!”

Felix and Ken exchanged put-upon looks, then a thought seemed to occur to Felix and his face brightened.  “Are you going to be making those coasting cookies again?”  He asked Mrs. Brown.

She smiled indulgently.  “I already made them.  There’s five dozen of them on plates in the pie safe, just waiting.”

“Only five dozen?” Ken whined in mock disappointment.

Felix punched him lightly in the shoulder.  “Don’t worry, I’ll save you half of one—if you’re nice to me.”…

sarah-chrismanSarah will join us in the December Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium podcasts. Click here to learn more about her and her Victorian-themed books, both fiction and non-fiction. For more Victorian recipes: click here for roast Thanksgiving turkey with chestnut stuffing and gravy and Sarah’s homemade cranberry sauce and hearty vegetable hash.

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Victorian Thanksgiving Recipes: Homemade Cranberry Sauce and Hearty Vegetable Hash

victorian-cranberry-sauce-recipeVictorian lifestyle expert and author Sarah Chrisman shares favorite–and authentic–recipes for tangy homemade cranberry sauce (served hot or cold) and a hearty vegetable hash.

Sarah Chrisman, who lives every day like it’s Victorian times and writes about it in several books, is the current featured author for the Genealogy Gems Book Club. She’ll join both the Genealogy Gems podcast and the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in December to talk about Victorian-style holidays and her books, including This Victorian Life.

In the coming weeks, Sarah will share her favorite mouth-watering, made-from-scratch Victorian recipes here on the Genealogy Gems blog. Some of her recipes come straight from cookbooks of the time period, and others she has adapted for modern kitchens and tastes. Below, she shares a simple recipe for tangy cranberry sauce, simmered from whole, fresh cranberries, and a hot, hearty vegetable hash side dish, which Sarah calls “a good way to use up leftovers after the holiday!”

Cranberry Sauce

cranberry-sauce-sarah-chrisman“Pick over and wash two cupfuls of fine cranberries.  Put them in an earthen dish, pour over a cup of sugar, add a cupful of boiling water, cover, and cook gently nearly an hour.  Serve hot or cold.”-From Catering for Two,  by Alice L. James. G.P. Putnam’s Sons: New York and London. (n.d.) p. 178.

Note: the above edition of Catering for Two isn’t dated, but a first edition found online is dated 1898.

 

Vegetable Hash

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

“Chop rather coarsely the remains of vegetables left from a boiled dinner, such as cabbage, parsnips, potatoes, etc., sprinkle over them a little pepper; place in a saucepan or frying-pan over the fire; put in a piece of butter the size of a hickory nut; when it begins to melt, tip the dish so as to oil the bottom, and around the sides; then uput in the chopped vegetables; pour in a spoonful or two of hot water from the tea-kettle; cover quickly so as to keep in the steam.  When heated thoroughly take off the cover and stir occasionally until well cooked.  Serve hot.  Persons fond of vegetables will relish this dish very much.” –The Capitol Cook Book, 1896, p. 188

More Recipes for a Very Victorian Holiday Season

victorian-thanksgiving-turkeyClick here to see last week’s Victorian-era recipe for a rich roasted turkey with chestnut stuffing and gravy. (We even included a quick how-to video tutorial for trussing the turkey!)

Follow us in the coming weeks on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page, Pinterest or Instagram for more Victorian recipes! Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman (This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in 19th-Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion and Technologies) will be serving up a series of favorites in celebration of her coming Book Club interviews on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in December.

 

This Victorian Pumpkin Pie Recipe is Light and Delicate

victorian-pumpkin-pie-recipeThis Victorian pumpkin pie recipe calls for milk instead of cream, an economical choice that results in a lighter, more delicate pie than we often taste today.

This holiday season, Victorian expert Sarah Chrisman is sharing her favorite holiday recipes with us. This week: a Victorian take on the classic pumpkin pie. Reformatted in modern recipe style, here is the original recipe for 3 pies, followed by Sarah’s version, adapted for modern cooks making a single pie.

Victorian Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman

Ingredients:
1 qt rich milk (a little cream is a great improvement)
3 cups boiled and strained pumpkin
2 cups sugar
little piece of butter
4 eggs
1 Tbsp ginger and cinnamon (scant)
Rich crust

1. Mix milk, pumpkin, sugar, butter, ginger and cinnamon.
2. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks thoroughly and stir into above mixture.
3. Beat the whites to a froth and add to mixture just before putting the pie in the oven.
4. Have a rich crust and bake in a quick oven.
Should you desire to use squash instead, you can make equally as good a pie as with the pumpkin. Makes 3 pies.
– From The Women’s Exchange Cookbook. 1890s, p. 250.

Sarah’s version of Victorian Pumpkin Pie:
Ingredients
Pie crust for 10″ pie
1 cup pumpkin, cooked and mashed
1 tsp. butter
1 cup milk + 1/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon

1. Bake the pie crust unfilled, with pie weights holding down the middle, for about 7 minutes. (If the filling is added to a raw pie crust then baked, it makes the crust a bit soggy.)
2. Cook and mash the pumpkin.
3. Stir in the butter while the pumpkin is still warm. Let this mixture cool thoroughly (preferably overnight).
4. Mix in the ginger, cinnamon, milk, cream, and egg yolk.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the pumpkin mixture and pour it into the pie shell.
6. Bake 40 minutes (or until edges are set) at 375 degrees.  Cool overnight before cutting.

Here’s what Sarah has to say about this recipe: “This pumpkin pie is made primarily with milk instead of cream for economy’s sake—milk being much cheaper than cream, then as now.  The result is a much lighter and more delicate pumpkin pie than most. With very little cream it doesn’t have the heavy, custard texture of most pumpkin pie, but instead gets its body from the egg whites.”

womans-exchange-cookbook“This recipe comes from an 1890s Woman’s Exchange cookbook. (My copy is in pretty bad shape and is unfortunately missing an exact date to document its publication.) Women’s Exchanges were organized by middle- and upper-class Victorian women as a way to help poorer women earn money and improve their situations. The organizers would suggest which products were able to be made at home and most marketable in their particular community; then they provided a venue for the sale of those products. Foods of all sorts were particularly popular products for sale at Women’s Exchanges. Recipes in Women’s Exchange cookbooks were designed especially with economy in mind, so that the financially challenged women making them could a.) afford the ingredients and b.) realize the biggest possible profit when they sold the finished product.” 

Check out these other Victorian recipes we’ve published as part of our Victorian holiday celebration with Genealogy Gems Book Club author Sarah Chrisman. Sarah will join Lisa Louise Cooke on the December Genealogy Gems and Genealogy Gems Premium podcasts to talk about what it’s like to “live in the past” in her chosen Victorian lifestyle.

More Victorian and holiday recipes

cranberry-sauce-sarah-chrismanRoast Thanksgiving turkey with chestnut stuffing and gravy

Sarah’s homemade cranberry sauce and hearty vegetable hash

Lisa Alzo’s Christmas cut-out cookies

 

A Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey RecipeIn honor of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman, and her book This Victorian Life, we are publishing a number of Victorian inspired delectable recipes and other sumptuous ideas. This Victorian Thanksgiving turkey recipe celebrates how the holiday came into its own during the Victorian era, complete with a rich, moist roast turkey at the center of the table.

Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the U.S. in 1863, during the Civil War. Over the next few decades, festive cooks dressed up the Thanksgiving turkey with whatever flavors were available to them in season, such as chestnuts, sausage, dried cranberries or other fruits and even oysters!

This recipe for roast turkey with chestnut stuffing is edited slightly from the Fannie Farmer 1896 Cookbook, which you can read on Google Books (click here for more Google Books search tips). We’ve tweaked the wording slightly, separated the instructions into numbered steps and added the modern ingredient list to make it an easier read for the modern cook.

Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing and Gravy

fannie-farmer-1896-cookbookRoast Turkey

Ingredients:
10-pound turkey
Salt
1/3 cup butter and 1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups boiling water, divided
Parsley or celery tips (for garnish)

1. Dress, clean, stuff and truss a ten-pound turkey. (See quick how-to video tutorial below.) Place on its side on rack in a dripping-pan.

2. Rub entire surface with salt, and spread breast, legs, and wings with 1/3 cup butter, rubbed until creamy and mixed with flour.
3. Place in a hot oven, and when flour on turkey begins to brown, reduce heat, baste with fat in pan, and add boiling water.
4. Continue basting every 15 minutes until turkey is cooked, which will require about 3 hours. For basting, use 1/2 cup butter melted in 1/2 cup boiling water, and after this is used, baste with fat in pan.
5. During cooking turn turkey frequently, that it may brown evenly. If turkey is browning too fast, cover with buttered paper [aluminum foil] to prevent burning.
6. Remove strings and skewers before serving. Garnish with parsley or celery tips.

Chestnut Stuffing

chestnutsIngredients:
3 cups French chestnuts
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup cream
1 cup cracker crumbs

1. Shell and blanch chestnuts.
2. Cook in boiling salted water until soft.
3. Drain and mash, using a potato ricer [masher].
4. Add 1/2 the butter, salt, pepper and cream.
5. Melt remaining butter, mix with cracker crumbs, then combine mixtures.

Gravy

Ingredients:
Turkey drippings
6 Tbsp flour
3 cups turkey stock
salt and pepper to taste
optional: finely-chopped giblets or 3/4 cup cooked and mashed chestnuts

1. Pour off liquid in pan in which turkey has been roasted.
2. From liquid, skim off 6 Tbsp fat. Return to pan and brown with flour.
3. Gradually add stock, in which the giblets, neck and tips of wings have been cooked, or use liquor [liquid] left in pan.
4. Cook 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper; and strain.
5. For giblet gravy, add to the above giblets (heart, liver, and gizzard) finely chopped. For chestnut gravy, add chestnuts to 2 cups thin turkey gravy.

this-victorian-lifeWatch this blog (or follow us on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page, Pinterest or Instagram) in the coming weeks! Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman (This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in 19th-Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion and Technologies) will be serving up a series of her favorite mouthwatering Victorian-era recipes in celebration of her coming Book Club interviews on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in December.

The Victorian Bicycles Your Ancestors May Have Ridden

victorian-bicycles-featured-imageVictorian bicycles like the “Ordinary” high-wheel and the woman’s racing tricycle were anything but ordinary! Check out this video footage of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman and her husband Gabriel on their high-wheels–and Gabriel’s demonstrations of how to ride a high-wheel Victorian bicycle.

Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman live like it’s Victorian times. Their dress, home life, household appliances, daily technology use (except for communicating with the rest of the world as needed) and even their daily transportation choices are all driven by what would have been done in the 1880s and 1890s.

Victorian Bicycles About Town

Check out this footage (below) of the couple “about town” on their Victorian bicycles. Gabriel launches himself onto a high-wheel “Ordinary” style bicycle. He rides a modern replica of an 1885 Victor with a 52″ wheel (the bicycle is sized to his leg length, like a man’s trousers) and an 1887 Singer Challenge. Sarah trails along on a modern re-creation inspired by a Coventry Rudge Rotary tricycle from the 1880s. They talk about what they do and why–and the message they hope others will take away from their unusual lifestyle.

Victorian Bicycles vs. Present Day Cycling

Gabriel has over 20-years’ experience working in a bike shop (a modern one), and enjoys comparing past and present cycling models. In an interview at Bicycling.com, he explains: “I’m a long-time cyclist with lower back issues—I can sit on this bike and be perfectly vertical and upright, which is wonderful for comfort, and you get a better view. One of the things I always used road riding for is meditation, and riding a high-wheel bike is an excellent bike for that—it’s just a magical experience gliding along and feeling the rhythm of everything.”

Below, Gabriel demonstrates how to mount his 1887 Singer Challenge high-wheel bicycle:

And here he shows off just a little, riding with one leg (we’re impressed):

Victorian Bicylces for the Ladies

A couple seated on an 1886 Coventry Rotary Quadracycle for two. Wikimedia Commons image in the public domain; click to view.

Victorian Bicycles: A couple seated on an 1886 Coventry Rotary Quadracycle for two. Wikimedia Commons image in the public domain; click to view.

Sarah’s tricycle was originally made to accommodate ladies’ fashions of the day: long, full skirts that would have gotten caught in the spokes of an Ordinary and pantalet drawers with open crotches that would have revealed more than a lady would prefer if she were seated on a taller Ordinary. A “bicycle built for two” quadracycle version was also made, shown here.

“There were a number of different styles of tricycles in the nineteenth-century,” Sarah explains on the couple’s website. “On many models the rider sat between two large wheels and a third, smaller wheel was seen out front or behind the rider. However finely they were made though, all the metal and solid rubber on those large wheels adds up to a lot of weight, so an asymmetrical model was developed. The Rudge Rotary (which inspired mine) was known for its lightness and speed and gained a reputation as a racing trike. The right-hand grip turns the two smaller wheels in tandem with each other: They steer it. The big wheel drives the machine: It gets turned when the treadles go ’round.”

This Victorian Life at Genealogy Gems

this-victorian-lifeLearn more about Sarah and Gabriel’s unusual lifestyle in Sarah’s memoir, This Victorian Life. She will discuss that book and Victorian life in general in an upcoming Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with host Lisa Louise Cooke. You can catch highlights from that conversation in our free December epiosde of The Genealogy Gems Podcast, and the exclusive full length interview on the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast (episode 142). Not a Premium member yet? Click here to learn more about Premium membership benefits–not least of which is access to unique conversations such as this one!

Bonus Genealogy Gems Book Club recommendations: Sarah has also written other books about Victorian life, including a “Cycling Club Romance” series inspired by their own experience with the Victorian-era cycling craze. Click on the book covers below to learn more about them. (And if you choose to purchase, thanks for doing so using these links, which support more free content like this.)

victorian-secretstrue-ladies-and-proper-gentlement-sarah-chrisman first-wheel-in-town-sarah-chrisman

genealogy book club family history reading