The Beginnings of Betty Crocker, America’s First Lady of Food

tumblr_mnketr7qwd1s3zerco1_500The Washburn Crosby Company (later renamed General Mills) entered their finest flours into the 1880’s First Millers International Exhibition in Cincinnati, Ohio. Fortunately, their flours took the gold, silver and bronze medals. Soon after, Washburn Crosby Company changed its name to Gold Medal Flour.generalmills

According to the Washburn Crosby Cooking, “Cadwallader C. Washburn founded the Minneapolis Mill Company in 1856, thinking to lease power rights along the Mississippi River to millers. He bought the land owned by a failed Minneapolis mill in 1866, spending $100,000 to construct a new, modern mill on the site. Although people called the mill “Washburn’s folly” and believed that no mill so large should have been constructed so far west, Washburn believed that there would be demand for midwestern wheat. By 1874, he had the capital to construct yet another, larger mill — the Washburn ‘A ‘Mill. Following the usual practice of labeling mills according to size, the 1866 mill was relabeled the ‘B’ Mill. In ten years’ time, Washburn’s flour was winning awards at the Centennial Exposition.


1893-Washburn, Crosby Co. Flour Mills, 34 pages This booklet was a descriptive handout from the Washburn Crosby exhibit at the Columbian World’s Fair. It contains two recipes for baking bread. The back cover has a realistic portrait of a cat. crock.htm

“In September, 1877, he partnered with his brother and John Crosby, forming the Washburn-Crosby Company, but tragedy struck almost immediately. An explosion leveled the ‘A; Mill and five other buildings on May 2, 1878, temporarily crippling production. Bringing in safer new equipment, the mill was rebuilt, including this time the steel rollers that made their mill the world’s first automated mill. The ‘A’ Mill reached a capacity of 5,500 barrels of flour per day — foremost among mills until the advent of Pillsbury’s own ‘A’ Mill in 1881.

“At that same world’s fair, a German company had exhibited a new 1200 horsepower engine. Washburn’s milling company purchased the engine, installing it in the ‘A’ mill in Summer of 1894.

“It was also during this period that the decision was made to phase out the various trade names being used by Washburn-Crosby flour, including ‘Superlative,’ ‘Parisian,’ ‘Extra,’ and ‘Triple Extra.’ After the Columbian Expo, at which the ‘Gold Medal’ name was emphasized, the company began eliminating the other names gradually. Although ‘Superlative’ had been the more popular name, by 1894 more than half of the flour produced by Washburn-Crosby went out under the ‘Gold Medal’ name. By 1900, that amount had increased to 70%.” General Mills itself was created in June 1928 when Washburn-Crosby President James Ford Bell directed his company to merge with 26 other mills. In 1928, General Mills acquired the Wichita Mill and Elevator Company of the industrialist Frank Kell of Wichita Falls, Texas.  With the sale, Kell acquired cash plus stock in the corporation. (Williams, J. W., “Frank Kell,”


1942: All Purpose Baking, 100 pages. Gold cover; 25c price. http://www.friktech. com/crock/crock.htm

To publicize Gold Medal Flour, after it became a General Mills product, the company decided to run a national campaign in the form of a picture puzzle. The idea was that when the consumer of the national magazine got the picture puzzle that he/she would put it together, a grand marketing scheme that nearly backfired on General Mills. The puzzle formed an interesting image of a picturesque village where people visiting a mercantile carried sacks of Gold Medal flour to their trucks to take home. The company decided that the prize for those submitting the puzzle would be a pin cushion in the form of a miniature Gold Medal flour sack. 

Unpredictably, more than 30,000 people solved the picture puzzle and returned it to the General Mills offices. The company had to hire extra help to process the onslaught of mail. As equally unpredictable was the number of questions submitted by those mailing in the finished puzzles: How does one make a one-crust pie? How long should I knead my bread dough? Etc. 

The company decided that could not simply ignore the questions for that would be bad marketing techniques. Instead, they took the unorthodox approach: they answered each letter with a personal reply. They sought out information from the wives of the office personnel and the warehouse personnel. They gathered recipes from home economists. And to make the replies appear more personal, the advertising department concocted a “woman,” whom they named Betty Crocker. The Crocker came from a popular secretary-director of the company who had recently retired. The name Betty was chosen for it had a commonality the advertisers wished to convey. 

Eventually, trained correspondents were hired as “Betty Crocker.” They answer some 5000+ letters per month. Twenty-three trained home economists operate the Betty Crocker kitchens, where they test products and recipes. Although now real, Betty Crocker is America’s First Lady of Food. 


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Overview: Life and Literature in the Era of the Reformation

In Academics, the Reformation saw a revival of the study of Greek and Latin writings, as well as a love of beauty. “Humanism” became the newborn ideal, one that advocated individualism, an ideal which gave a tremendous impetus to literature and the arts. “The word “humanism” has a number of meanings. 

Literary Humanism is a devotion to the humanities or literary culture.

Renaissance Humanism is the spirit of learning that developed at the end of the middle ages with the revival of classical letters and a renewed confidence in the ability of human beings to determine for themselves truth and falsehood.

Western Cultural Humanism is a good name for the rational and empirical tradition that originated largely in ancient Greece and Rome, evolved throughout European history, and now constitutes a basic part of the Western approach to science, political theory, ethics, and law.

Philosophical Humanism is any outlook or way of life centered on human need and interest.

Christian Humanism is “a philosophy advocating the self-fulfillment of man within the framework of Christian principles.” This more human-oriented faith is largely a product of the Renaissance and is a part of what made up Renaissance humanism.”(What is Humanism?)

220px-Thomas_Linacre_2During the Reformation, in Europe this new learning gave birth to Martin Luther, and to Copernicus, who upset all accepted notions of the universe. University saw the likes of “Thomas Linacre (c. 1460 – 20 October 1524) was a humanist scholar and physician, after whom Linacre College, Oxford and Linacre House The King’s School, Canterbury, are named. Among his pupils was one—Erasmus—whose name alone would suffice to preserve the memory of his instructor in Greek, and others of note in letters and politics, such as Sir Thomas More, Prince Arthur and Queen Mary I of England, John Colet, William Grocyn, William Lilye and other eminent scholars were his intimate friends, and he was esteemed by a still wider circle of literary correspondents in all parts of Europe.” (Thomas Linacre) England began to experience the effects of European discoveries. These men denounced the worldliness of the Church and opposed absolutism. 

Henry VIII, nevertheless, remained an absolute monarch. Based upon his whims, he weakened both church and nobles and controlled Parliament, which he only called into session when he wished his policies to appear to possess an appearance of popularity or when he wished Parliament to be the scapegoat for his unpopular measures. Henry maintained his own popularity with his people by not overtaxing them. History indicates that Henry VIII often extorted or borrowed the necessary funds. Later, he debased the coinage system and raised prices, the result of which was the poor losing their employment because of gild restrictions on labor and the enclosure of lands. To counter this, King Henry threw a sop to the public with measures of relief. The land swarmed with beggars, but Henry set the sturdy ones to work and had the remainder seek out a begging license. Each parish established a poor fun.

220px-Roger_Ascham_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_12788Meanwhile schools were springing up throughout the country, so that a work like Ascham’s Schoolmaster could be popular, and a scholar like Erasmus, who came from Holland, could feel that he was at home in England. (Roger Ascham (c. 1515 – 30 December 1568) was an English scholar and didactic writer, famous for his prose style, his promotion of the vernacular, and his theories of education. He acted as Princess Elizabeth’s tutor in Greek and Latin between 1548 and 1550, and served in the administrations of Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.)

The literature of the Reformation was more scholarly (the classics took prominence) than original in its productions. The time is one of transition from an old day to the great Elizabethan. Contemporary European literature, especially those from Italy, also found a following. King Henry’s break with Rome and the social disruption that ensued gave rise to the popularity of “controversial” literature.

“Henry VIII separated the “Church of England from the Roman Catholic church, but he had not reformed the church’s practices or doctrines. On Henry’s death, his young son Edward became King. Many of Edward’s advisors tried to move the English church in the direction of a more Bible-based Christianity. Two such men were Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer.

“The scholar Nicholas Ridley had been a chaplain to King Henry VIII and was Bishop of London under his son Edward. He was a preacher beloved of his congregation whose very life portrayed the truths of the Christian doctrines he taught. In his own household he had daily Bible readings and encouraged Scripture memory among his people.

31016“Hugh Latimer also became an influential preacher under King Edward’s reign. He was an earnest student of the Bible, and as Bishop of Worcester he encouraged the Scriptures be known in English by the people. His sermons emphasized that men should serve the Lord with a true heart and inward affection, not just with outward show. Latimer’s personal life also re-enforced his preaching. He was renowned for his works, especially his visitations to the prisons.” (Bishops Ridley and Latimer Burned)

Bishop Latimer preached sermons with vigor, while Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was religious excellence. The works of Ascham and More was distinctly literary. Thomas More’s Utopia, an indirect attack on social abuses and a picture of an idealistically harmonious universe, was one of the early English Utopian writings. “Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, are generally considered the inaugurators of the golden age of English poetry in the reign of Elizabeth I. Both men were educated in the humanistic tradition, and they early became familiar with the polished lyric poetry of the Italians and the French. They attempted to demonstrate in their own works that English, too, was a language flexible and elegant enough for court poetry. Skillful experimenters with metrics, they imitated a number of the verse forms popular on the Continent, including the sonnet, ottava rima, terza rima, and the rondeau. Many of the lyrics of both poets are based upon the Petrarchan conventions of the cruel, scornful lady and her forlorn, rejected lover; a number of the sonnets are, in fact, either translations or close adaptations of Petrarch’s works.” (The Poetry of Wyatt and Surrey) Surrey, in his translation of the Aeneid used blank verse for the first time in English. 

The Italian Renascence, the influence of Humanism, new geographical discoveries and explorations, and England’s triumph over Spain all stimulated the national consciousness. Adaptations and translations were numerous. In addition to Surrey’s translation of the Aeneid, William Painter collected a number of Greek, French, Italian, and Latin stories in 1566. He called his work the Palace of Pleasure. Thomas North translated Plutarch’s Lives in 1579. 

This admiration for the works from other countries did not mean there was no remarkable English literature of the time. “In his Garlande of Laurell [John] Skelton, who once served as Henry VIII’s tutor, gives a long list of his works, only a few of which are extant. The garland in question was worked for him in silks, gold and pearls by the ladies of the Countess of Surrey at Sheriff Hutton Castle,  where he was the guest of the Duke of Norfolk. The composition includes complimentary verses to the various ladies concerned, and a good deal of information about himself. But it is as a satirist that Skelton merits attention. The Bowge of Court is directed against the vices and dangers of court life. He had already in his Boke of the Thre Foles drawn on Alexander Barclay’s version of the  Narrenschiff of Sebastian Brant, and this more elaborate and imaginative poem belongs to the same class.” (John Skelton)

Skelton began writing in the previous century, but the new era saw much of his work completed. Literature became an expression of the middle class as the cities saw a growing population. Coke Lorell’s Bote, a burlesque of middle-class characters and tradesmen, displays evidence of the growing interest in the middle class. Mock testaments, such as that of Andrew Kennedy (1508), emphasized character development, a major improvement in the literary form. “Jest” books became popular among the populace. The Jests of Skoggan (1565) was one of the most widely read of this genre. Other “jest” books included Mery Tales (1526), Mery Tales and Quick Answers (1535), and Mery Tales of Master Skelton

1557 saw one of the first English collections of miscellaneous verse: Tottel’s Miscellany. It contained poems by Wyatt and Surrey. Minor poets of the time, including Nicholas Grimald, Edward Somerset, Thomas Vaux, and John Heywood also had poems within the collection. Other popular poets of the period include Thomas Churchyard (Churchyard’s Choice, Churchyard’s Chippes, and The Mirror of Men); Thomas Tusser (who wrote maxims on the virtuous life of thrift); Barnaby Googe (who wrote pastoral eclogues); George Turberville (who produced songs and sonnets); and Thomas Howell (who wrote of love). In 1568, Howell’s Arbor of Amitie appeared, but his Devises did not arrive until 1581. George Gascoigne’s greatest poem, the Stele Glas, a blank verse moral satire, appeared in 1576. Edward Haicke wrote View Out of Paul’s Churchyard in 1567. 





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Pounds, Shillings, Pence, and Guineas: Understanding British Currency in the 19th Century

Okay, I admit it. When it comes to understanding the British system of currency in the books I read, even I am sometimes confused. So, I set out to learn more of the currency. 

The common currency was created in 1707 by Article 16 of the Articles of Union.

Here is a guide to British currency:

Pound: This was the basic unit of currency. One could find possess a “pound” in the form of a paper note or in the form of a sovereign (a gold coin). Sometimes it was also called a “quid,” but this was more of a slang term. Another slang term found in the period was a “monkey,” which was equal to £500. Meanwhile, a “pony” was £25. The pound sign (£) represents Libra, a pound weight in Latin. “The symbol derives from a capital “L”, representing libra, the basic unit of weight in the Roman Empire, which in turn is derived from the Latin name of the same spelling for scales or a balance. The pound became an English unit of weight and was so named because it originally had the value of one tower pound (~350 grams) of fine (pure) silver.” (Pound Sign)

In 1066, after the Norman Conquest, the pound was divided into twenty shillings or 240 pennies. It was as such until the decimalization on 15 February 1971. Prior to that time, money was divided into pounds (£ or 1), shillings (s. or/-) and pennies (d.). 

lima_shilling_giiShilling: The most popular coin of the period was a shilling. It was used to purchase food, coal, soap, cloth, etc. There are 20 shillings to a pound and twelve pennies to a shilling. The symbol s. or /- came from the Latin solidus. The slang term for a shilling was “bob.”

“The word shilling comes from scilling, an accounting term that dates back to Anglo-Saxon  times, and from there back to Old Norse, where it means ‘division.’ One abbreviation for shilling is s (for solidus). Often it was informally represented by a slash, standing for a  long s or ʃ thus 1/6 would be 1 shilling and sixpence, often pronounced “one and six” (and equivalent to 18d; the shilling itself was valued at 12d). A price with no pence was written with a slash and a dash: 11/–. Quite often a triangle or (serif) apostrophe would be used to give a neater appearance, such as 1’6 or 11’–. During the Great Recoinage of 1816, the mint was instructed to coin one troy pound (weighing 5760 grains) of standard (o.925 fine) silver into 66 shillings, or its equivalent in other denominations. This effectively set the weight of the shilling, and its subsequent decimal replacement 5 new pence coin, at 87.2727 grains or 5.655 grams from 1816 to 1990, when a new smaller 5p coin was introduced.” (Shilling)

150px-Aethelred_obv2150px-Aethelred_rev2Penny: This was the smallest unit of currency. The plural of “penny” is “pence.” There were 12 pence for each shilling and 240 pence for each pound. “The earliest halfpenny and farthing (¼d.) thus found date to the reigns of Edward I and Henry III, respectively. The need for small change was also sometimes met by simply cutting a full penny into halves or quarters. In 1527, Henry VIII abolished the Tower pound of 5400 grains, replacing it with the Troy pound of 5760 grains and establishing a new pennyweight of 1.56 grams. The last silver pence for general circulation were minted during the reign of Charles II around 1660. 

Cartwheel_Penny“Throughout the 18th century, the British government did not mint pennies for general circulation, and the bullion value of the existing silver pennies caused them to be withdrawn from circulation. Merchants and mining companies began to issue their own copper tokens to fill the need for small change. Finally, amid the Napoleonic Wars, the government authorized Matthew Boulton to mint copper pennies and twopences. Typically, 1 lb. of copper produced 24 pennies. In 1860, the copper penny was replaced with a bronze one (95% copper, 4% tin, 1% zinc). Each pound of bronze was coined into 48 pennies.” (Penny)

If I have not lost you completely at this point, we must also address coins that a reader might encounter in an historical document or novel. There were also special coins that were used that spoke of “multiples” and “fractions” of shillings and pence. For example…

Guinea = one pound, one shilling (Slang word for a guinea was “yellowboy.”) You will read in historical novels where a gentleman paid for his business transactions in guineas. 

farthing_queenanneOther coins in multiples and fractions are…

Florin = 2 shillings
Crown = 5 shillings
Half-crown = 2.5 shillings
Tuppence = 2 pence
Thrupence = 3 pence
Groat = 4 pence
Tanner6 pence
Ha’penny = 1/2 of a penny
Farthing1/4 of a penny
Mite 1/8 of a penny

For a more detailed explanation visit The Proceedings of Old Bailey, which also addresses questions on wages and the cost of living at time, or British Life and Culture.



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John Hart, a Man Who Sacrificed Everything as a Signer of the Declaration of Independence

John_Hart-213x300May 11, 2016, marked over 240 years since John Hart’s death. Hart, a signer of the Declaration from New Jersey was one of the many noted Christians among the Founding Fathers. WallBuilders, a Christian based historical group, recently posted some of our legal documents signed by John Hart.

While the actual date of John Hart’s birth is unknown, biographers have put it in the year of 1713, in Hopewell Township, New Jersey. Edward Hart, John’s father, was a Justice of the Peace, a Public Assessor, and a farmer. He arrived in Hopewell about c.1710, at the age of twenty. He married Martha Furman (Firmin), on May 17, 1712, and they had five children, all raised in Hopewell, New Jersey. Not much is known of his family, except that his father helped raise a volunteer army, named “The Jersey Blues,” to assist in the French and Indian War. John became a farmer and had 13 children with his wife the former Deborah Scudder, and his reputation as “Honest John Hart” earned him the trust of those around him. As such, he helped select New Jersey’s delegates to the early Stamp Act Congress that convened in New York in 1765.

John Hart learned to read, write and do figures, but like most men of his time, had little formal schooling. He was well regarded for his common sense, was reasonably well read as proved by his understanding of the law, and showed acumen on business matters.

“John Hart began acquiring property in 1740, buying the “homestead plantation” of 193 acres in the Town of Hopewell New Jersey. In 1751 he and his brother bought a mill that they named Daniel Hart’s Mill, and in the 1770’s he acquired land making him the largest land owner in Hopewell with over 600 acres. In 1773 he bought a substantial mill enterprise in Rocky Hill with his son-in-law John Polhemus, who would later become a captain in the militia, and then in the Continental Army. On his prosperous plantation Hart had many cattle, sheep, swine, horses and fowl, and he also owned four slaves. His adult children were doing well. The original part of his home was made of stone. The original small barn is still on the property which is now privately owned. The home stands on Hart Avenue in Hopewell, New Jersey.” (The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence)

“John Hart began his public service when he was elected to the Hunterdon County New Jersey Board of Chosen Freeholders in 1750, and was elected Justice of the Peace in 1755. With this appointment he was considered a gentlemen and he was able to be called John Hart, Esquire. From 1761-1771, John Hart served on the Colonial Assembly, representing Hunterdon, Morris and Sussex counties. It was there that he first met Abraham Clark, who would later become a fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas in 1768. By 1774, he was elected to a committee to ‘elect and appoint Delegates to the First Continental Congress, and to protest the Tea Act.’ In 1775 he was elected to the New Jersey Committee of Correspondence, which communicated and touched base with the other colonies, and served on the Committee of Safety ‘to act in the public welfare of the colony in the recess of the Congress.’ In 1776 he was elected to the New Jersey Provincial congress, and in the same year he was designated to sign the new  ‘Bill of Credit Notes,’ money issued by the State of New Jersey. Hart signed each note himself for a total of 25,000. Hart was often called ‘Honest John.’

“In June 1776 he was elected as one of five New Jersey delegates to the Second Continental Congress with authorization to vote for independence. His fellow delegates and future signers were Abraham Clark, Francis Hopkinson, Richard Stockton and John Witherspoon. When John Hart arrived in Philadelphia, in June 1776 to attend the Congress, he strongly supported the idea of Independence. John Hart was the thirteenth delegate to put his signature on the historic document. He was willing to pledge his life his fortune, and his sacred honor in doing so.

“In August of 1776 New Jersey elected a General Assembly under their new state constitution. Hart was elected to that body, and was selected to be Speaker. He soon returned home to attend to family matters. Sadly, his wife Deborah died on October 8, 1776, with John at her side.

“In December of 1776, as Washington’s army retreated across New Jersey, the British and Hessians ravaged the Hopewell area. Hart’s home and property suffered severe damage, two young children fled to the homes of relatives and Hart himself took refuge wherever he could in the woods, hiding in caves and in the Sourwood mountains. When the British began their withdrawal from the area after the American victories at Trenton and Princeton, Hart returned to his home. John Hart was re-elected twice as Speaker of the Assembly and served until November 7, 1778.” (DSDI)


John Hart’s Signature, 20 February 1776 http://www.barefootsworld. net/johnhart.html

John Hart was himself elected to the Continental Congress where, somewhere near the age of 60, he voted for the Declaration of Independence with “unusual zeal.” He fully understood the personal cost entailed by affixing his name to the Declaration of Independence, and quickly became a target of the British for signing that document.

In June 1778, John Hart invited the American army to camp at his farm. Washington accepted his offer, and 12,000 men camped in John Hart’s field during the growing season, and refreshed themselves with the cool water that flowed on the property. The troops left on the 24th of June, and four days later fought and won the Battle of Monmouth.

Chased from his dying wife’s bedside and hunted by the enemy, he wandered about the countryside to avoid discovery by the British, rarely sleeping in the same place two nights in a row. In fact, he even had to sleep in the “resting place of a large dog” to avoid detection by a nearby British patrol. Several times, he was forced to flee as fast as he could to “save his neck” as it had been “marked for vengeance” by the British.

John was finally able to return to his destroyed home in 1777 and gathered his children together. He began to rebuild his farm and property, but never fully recovered his health from the physical hardships of being forced from his home and being exposed to the cold and living outdoors for the year. The “sorrow, humiliation, and suffering, wearing out of his bodily strength, hasten[ed] the approach of decrepitude and death.”  (John Sanderson, Sanderson’s Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, Robert T. Conrad, editor (Philadelphia: Thomas, Cowperthwaith & Co., 1848), p. 255.)


John Hart Monument in 1st Baptist Courtyard, Hopewell, Mercer Co., New Jersey /johnhart.html

John did not see the fulfillment of his wish of freedom and independence for Americans, for he died before the end of the Revolutionary War. He suffered for long periods with kidney stones and passed from them on May 11, 1779, at the age of 66. 






John Hart  Bare Foot World

John Hart   The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence

John Hart  Wallbuilders 

Posted in American History, British history, Declaration of Independence, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Know These Words and Phrases?

Dead as a Doornail. The “doornail” is the plate or knocker upon which the hammer of a door knocker strikes. gives us this explanation on the origin of the phrase. In 1350,  William Langland used the phrase in a translation of the French poem Guillaume de Palerne: “For but ich haue bote of mi bale I am ded as dorenayl.” 

Langland also used the expression in the much more famous poem The Vision of William Concerning Piers Plowman, circa 1362: Fey withouten fait is febelore þen nouȝt, And ded as a dore-nayl. [Faith without works is feebler than nothing, and dead as a doornail.]

The expression was in widespread colloquial use in England by the 16th century, when Shakespeare gave these lines to the rebel leader Jack Cade in King Henry VI, Part 2, 1592: Look on me well: I have eat no meat these five days; yet, come thou and thy five men, and if I do not leave you all as dead as a doornail, I pray God I may never eat grass more.

doornailWhy doornails are cited as a particular example of deadness isn’t so obvious. Doornails are the large-headed studs that were used in earlier times for strength and more recently as decoration. The practice was to hammer the nail through and then bend the protruding end over to secure it. This process, similar to riveting, was called clenching. This may be the source of the ‘deadness’, as such a nail would be unusable afterwards.

Dickens was among the celebrated authors who liked the phrase and made a point of musing on it in A Christmas Carol: Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.


Exception Proves the Rule: This one is quite logical when one realizes at one time the word “prove” meant “test.” In other words, “exception tests the rule.” The website Mental Floss tells us, “In fact, the ‘prove’ part of the phrase was not very important in its original formulation. The expression comes from the Latin legal principle exceptio probat regulam (the exception proves the rule), also rendered as exceptio firmat regulam (the exception establishes the rule) and exceptio confirmat regulam (the exception confirms the rule). The principle provides legal cover for inferences such as the following: if I see a sign reading ‘no swimming allowed after 10 pm,’ I can assume swimming is allowed before that time; if an appliance store says ‘pre-paid delivery required for refrigerators,’ I can assume they do not require pre-paid delivery for other items. The exception here is not a thing but an act of excepting. The act of stipulating a condition for when something is disallowed (or required), proves that when the stipulated conditions do not hold, it is allowed (or not required). The general rules are that swimming is allowed before 10pm and that pre-paid delivery is not required. The fact that exceptions to those rules have been stated confirms those rules hold in all other cases. The full statement of the principle reads exceptio probat regulam, in casibus non exceptis. The exception proves the rule in cases not excepted.”


hoosegowHoosegow. This one comes to American English via the Spanish word juzgado meaning judged (which Hispanics in Mexico pronounced without the “d.”) In the American West, the word became synonymous with “jail.” According to World Wide Words, “It’s a fine old American slang term for a jail, still widely known today. Most people would connect it with the nineteenth-century cowboys of the Wild West. It’s very likely that they knew the word, but it didn’t start to be written down until the early twentieth century. The first known example was penned by Harry Fisher, better known as Bud, in one of his early Mutt & Jeff cartoons, of 1908: “Mutt … may be released from the hooze gow.”

“The word is from Mexican Spanish juzgao, a jail, which came from juzgado for a tribunal or courtroom. It shifted to mean a jail because the two were often in the same building (and the path from the one to the other was often swift and certain). In sense and language origin it’s a relative of calaboose, which is also a prison (from calabozo, a dungeon, via the French of Louisiana).”


Philippic. Demosthenes made the attempt to arouse the Athenians against Philip of Macedon. His verbal attacks came to be known as Philippics. A philippic (/fɪˈlɪpɪk/) is a fiery, damning speech, or tirade, delivered to condemn a particular political actor -a discourse or declamation full of bitter condemnation. The term is most famously associated with two noted orators of the ancient world, Demosthenes of Athens and the Roman Cicero, although it can be applied to any speech of this type.



Two Strings to His Bow. This is a British phrase supposedly from the practice of the British archers who had a spare bowstring when they went to war. The Grammarist tells us, “To have another string in your bow can mean either that you have a backup plan in case the current plan fails. This is analogous to an archer carrying an extra bowstring in the event that the first breaks. Alternatively, the phrase may mean to have two strings in one bow that may work together, or to have two methods of acquiring a goal. This would be similar to a bow having two or more strings to increase the force propelling the arrow forward. The arrow would hit the target faster.

“A slight variation of this last definition is that by having an extra string in your bow, you have learned a new talent that will help in your career. Or in other words, you have more than one skill to rely on to accomplish your goals. This may refer to an archer having different kinds of strings, some of different materials and strengths. It should be noted that all of the archer analogies have been used since the sixteenth century and some of them have morphed over time. It is unlikely that each phrase was coined with the explicit analogy in mind. This idiom is mostly found outside of the United States.”


200px-A_single_white_feather_closeupShowing the White Feather. When gamecocks are crossbred, a different colored feather shows up in their tail feathers. This unusual feather is customarily white in color. This is chiefly a British term, which means to show cowardice. It came into the language between 1775-85; orig. from a white feather in a gamecock’s tail, taken as a sign of inferior breeding (an outside strain will lead to cowardice in the fighting gamecock) and hence of poor fighting qualities.

“A white feather has been a traditional symbol of cowardice, used and recognised especially within the British Arm and in countries of the British Empire since the 18th century, especially by patriotic groups, including some early feminists, in order to shame men who were not soldiers. It also carries opposite meanings, however: in some cases of pacifism, and in the United States, of extraordinary bravery and excellence in combat marksmanship. As a symbol of cowardice, the white feather supposedly comes from cockfighting and the belief that a cockerel sporting a white feather in its tail is likely to be a poor fighter. Pure-breed gamecocks do not show white feathers, so its presence indicates that the cockerel is an inferior cross-breed.

“In August 1914, at the start of the First World War, Admiral Charles Fitzgerald founded the Order of the White Feather with support from the prominent author Mrs Humphrey War. The organization aimed to shame men into enlisting in the British Army by persuading women to present them with a white feather if they were not wearing a uniform. In the first episode of the second series of Downton Abbey some women, presumably members of the Order of the White Feather, interrupt a benefit concert to hand out white feathers to the men who have not enlisted. Upon seeing this insulting behaviour, Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, angrily orders them out.” (White Feather


Easier For a Camel to Pass Through the Eye of a Needle. Most of us are familiar with this Biblical phrase, but what does it mean exactly? There was a small gateway in the Wall of Jerusalem that was used specifically by pedestrians. It was possible for a small camel (if kneeling) to work its way through this opening, but it would be very difficult. “The eye of a needle” is scripture quoting Jesus recorded in the synoptic gospels: I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

“Based on the simple reading of the text, there shouldn’t be any confusion about what it means to pass a camel through the eye of a needle (the reference also appears in Matthew 19:24 and Mark 10:25). The explanation usually goes something like this: Christ wasn’t referring to the eye of a literal needle—that would be preposterous. Instead, He was talking about a narrow entrance into the city of Jerusalem, a gate known locally as “the eye of the needle.” This gate was so small that a camel could only be brought through with great difficulty, squeezed through on its knees—which depicts how we humbly need to come to the Lord.

“That explanation can be quite compelling—after all, humility is necessary—as long as you don’t read the next two verses of Luke’s gospel: “They who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But He said, ‘The things that are impossible with people are possible with God’” (Luke 18:26-27) Christ’s words make the point of His illustration abundantly clear. He can’t mean that the rich man can only attain salvation through humility—getting a camel to stoop and squeeze through a narrow gate might be challenging, but it doesn’t require divine intervention. In context, His point is unmistakable: Manufacturing your own salvation is just as impossible as threading a massive beast of burden through the eye of a sewing needle. Apart from the intervention of the Lord, it cannot be done.” (The Study Bible


Warm the Cockles of the Heart. The cockles of the heart are its ventricles, named by some in Latin as “cochleae cordis”, from “cochlea” (snail), alluding to their shape. The saying means to warm and gratify one’s deepest feelings. The etymology of the phrase comes to us from the 17th Century, but the true basis of the phrase remains unsure. Some believe the  phrase redundant because of the resemblance of cockle-shells to the shape of the heart. It could also be a corruption of the Latin cochleae in cochleae cordis (ventricles of the heart) or of an Irish Gaelic origin. There is also those who believe the phrase inspired by how mollusks open when exposed to warmth, most notably in cooking. 

World Wide Words tells us, “Cockles are a type of bivalve mollusc, once a staple part of the diet for many British people (you may recall that Sweet Molly Malone once wheeled her wheelbarrow through Dublin’s fair city, crying ‘cockles and mussels, alive, alive oh!’). They are frequently heart-shaped (their formal zoological genus was at one time Cardium, of the heart), with ribbed shells.”


Beyond the Pale. This is a phrase often found in Regency era novels. It is “pale,” not “pail,” as it sometimes appears. I again turned to World Wide Words for a full explanation of the origin: 

“The phrase is properly beyond the pale. It means an action that’s regarded as outside the limits of acceptable behaviour, one that’s objectionable or improper.

I look upon you, sir, as a man who has placed himself beyond the pale of society, by his most audacious, disgraceful, and abominable public conduct. Mr Pott to Mr Slurk (we never learn their first names) in The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, 1837.

This is a classic example of the expression but by no means the earliest. That’s more than a century older, in 1720, in the third volume of The Compleat History of the Lives, Robberies, Piracies, and Murders Committed by the Most Notorious Rogues, by a man hiding, perhaps wisely, under the pseudonym of Captain Alexander Smith.

“Pale has nothing to do with the adjective for something light in colour except that both come from Latin roots. The one referring to colour originates in the Latin verb pallere, to be pale, whilst our one is from palus, a stake (also the name of the wooden post that Roman soldiers used to represent an opponent during fighting practice). Pale is an old name for a pointed piece of wood driven into the ground and — by an obvious extension — to a barrier made of such stakes, a palisade or fence. Pole is from the same source, as are impalepaling and palisade. This meaning has been around in English since the fourteenth century and by the end of that century pale had taken on various figurative senses — a defence, a safeguard, a barrier, an enclosure, or a limit beyond which it was not permissible to go. The idea of an enclosed area still exists in some English dialects.

“Both Dove-like roved forth beyond the pale
To planted Myrtle-walk.

“The History of Polindor and Flostella, by the Elizabethan courtier and author Sir John Harington, written sometime before 1612 but published in 1657. This uses pale in its literal sense of a boundary or enclosure. In the poem, Ortheris and his beloved risk going beyond the boundary (the pale) of their quiet park lodge with the result that Ortheris is attacked by five armed horsemen. Harrington is best remembered now for his Metamorphosis of Ajax (this last word being a pun on a jakes, meaning a privy) of 1596, a scatological and satirical work that contains the first description of a water closet, more than 200 years before anybody built one.


Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia Benjamin Nathans (Author)

“In particular, the term was used to describe various defended enclosures of territory inside other countries. For example, the English pale in France in the fourteenth century was the territory of Calais, the last English possession in that country. The best-known example is the Russian Pale, between 1791 and the Revolution of 1917, which were specified provinces and districts within which Russian Jews were required to live.

“Another famous one is the Pale in Ireland, the part of the country which England directly controlled — it varied from time to time, but was an area of several counties centred on Dublin. The first mention of the Irish Pale is in a document of 1446–7. Though there was an attempt later in the century to enclose the Pale by a bank and ditch (which was never completed), there never was a literal fence around it. The expression has often been claimed to originate in one or other of these pales, most often the Irish one, but the earliest appearance of 1720 for beyond the pale is very late if it’s linked to the Irish one and much too early for the Russian one.

“The earliest figurative sense that’s linked to the idiom was of a sphere of activity or interest, a branch of study or a body of knowledge, which comes from the same idea of an enclosed or contained area; we use field in much the same way. This turned up first in 1483 in one of the earliest printed books in English, The Golden Legende, a translation by William Caxton of a French work. This is a much later example:

By its conversion England was first brought, not only within the pale of the Christian Church, but within the pale of the general political society of Europe.

The History of the Norman Conquest, by Ernest A Freeman, 1867.

Our sense seems part to have grown out of this, since people who exist outside such a conceptual pale are not our kind and do not share our values, beliefs or customs.


Petticoat. Originally, men wore a small coat (“petty coat”) under their mail or their doublet. Eventually, women adopted the practice. They, too, wore a short or “petty” coat. In time the garment was lengthened and covered the area from the waist to below the knees. The Online Etymology Dictionary says: petticoat (n.)  early 15c., pety coote, literally “a small coat”. Originally a padded coat worn by men under armor, applied mid-15c. to a garment worn by women and young children. By 1590s, the typical feminine garment, hence a symbol of female sex or character.

Men declare that the petticoatless female has unsexed herself and has left her modesty behind. [“Godey’s Magazine,” April 1896]


Posted in language choices, vocabulary, word choices, word choices, word origins, writing | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

When Is a “Baron” Not a Baron?

A “baron” is defined as the lowest rank of nobility in the British peerage system. It is a title of honor and customarily a hereditary one. That being said, the sticking point of this post is the fact the term “Baron” is not used as a form of address in Britain, barons usually referred to as “Lord.” In direct address, they can also be referred to as My Lord, Your Lordship, or Your Ladyship, but never as My Lady (except in the case of a female judge). Husband(s) of a Baroness in her own right are not conferred any elevated style in their right. Children of Barons and Baronesses in their own right, whether hereditary or for life, have the style The Honourable [Forename] [Surname]. After the death of the father or mother, the child may continue to use the style The Honourable. I know this is surprising for many of you. It was for me when I realized how often I had misused this in my novels. 

“In the England, the medieval Latin word bariobaronis was used originally to denote a  tenant-in- chief of the early Norman kings who held his lands by the feudal tenure of “barony” (in Latin per baroniam), and who was entitled to attend the Great Council, which by the 13th century had developed into the Parliament of England. Feudal baronies (or “baronies by tenure”) are now obsolete in England and without any legal force but any such historical titles are held in gross, that is to say are deemed to be enveloped within a more modern extant peerage title also held by the holder, sometimes along with vestigial manorial rights and tenures by grand serjeanty.” (Baron)

According to all  of the reference books  on titles, the word Baron is used only  in peerage books, patents of peerages, and  in Parliament where certain seats are designated for barons.  A man might be a baron, but he is never  addressed or  referred to as such. The aristocracy believed that if a person was one of them, then he or she would practice this styling. Using Baron incorrectly proved the person was no one of the elite aristocratic  group.

When a woman is named a Baroness that means that she holds her title in her own right. A Baroness in her own right can be addressed either as Baroness or lady title.

 A bit of confusion arises for many of us because the judges of the court of the Exchequer are called Barons. This is even more confusing because the men are Sirs.

ATOHCrop2Most barons use their family name as their title so the two are the same. But in some cases they are different.  In my A Touch of Honor, John Swenton is Lord Swenton. He is a baron. However, it is possible that I could have styled him as John Swenton, Lord Monroe. Needless to say in an 8-book series, one more name would have been confusing to my readers, but it was an option. More confusion could arise because sometimes there are two barons with the same title name, so if there were two Lord Swentons, one would be Lord Swenton of Swenton Hall, while the other would be Lord Swenton of Nash Manor. In other words, they become known as Lord XXXX of (some place name at or near their seat) to differentiate them, though the ‘of’ is merely a way to keep them straight than an actual part of their title.

 95b7fdcd3e03649edf7f87e1a7c57bb2582dd630Though one can say  “Lord Byron is a baron,” one would never call him Baron Byron.  One did not say “Baron and Baroness Byron” arrived, entertained, etc. The fact that Byron was a  baron was noted in the book of peerage, in his seat in the House of Lords, and  when one had to rank men by precedence. Other wise he is always Lord Byron. His wife is Lady Byron.

“In the twentieth-century Britain introduced the concept of non-hereditary life peers. All appointees to this distinction have (thus far) been at the rank of baron.[1] In accordance with the tradition applied to hereditary peers they too are formally addressed in parliament by their peers as ‘The Noble Lord.’

“In addition, baronies are often used by their holders as subsidiary titles, for example as courtesy titles for the son and heir of an Earl or higher-ranked peer. The Scottish baronial title tends to be used when a landed family is not in possession of any United Kingdom peerage title of higher rank, subsequently granted, or has been created a knight of the realm.

“Several members of the royal family with the style of Royal Highness are also titled Barons. For example, Charles, Prince of Wales also is The Baron of Renfew. His eldest son Prince William, Duke of Cambridge is also The Baron Carrickfergus. Similarly, Prince Andrew, Duke of York is The Baron Killyleagh. (Baron)

 If a woman is introduced or known as Baroness XXXX, for instance, that meant she held the title in her own right. That is why it is correct to call female life peers “baroness,” but not to do call the  wife of a baron “baroness.”

“Scottish barons style their surnames similarly to Clan Chiefs, with the name of their barony following their name, as in John Smith of Edinburgh orJohn Smith, Baron of Edinburgh. Most formally, and in writing, they are styled as The Much Honoured Baron of Edinburgh. Their wives are styled Lady Edinburgh, or The Baroness of Edinburgh. The phrase Lady of Edinburgh is wrong if the lady in question does not hold a Scottish barony in her own right. Orally, Scottish barons may be addressed with the name of their barony, as in Edinburgh or else as Baron without anything else following, which if present would suggest a peerage barony. Informally, when referring to a Scots feudal baron in the third person, the name Baron of [X] is used or simply [X].

“The United Kingdom policy of using titles on passports requires that the applicant provides evidence that the Lord XXXX has been recognised with a feudal barony, or the title is included in Burke’s Peerage. If accepted (and if the applicant wishes to include the title), the correct form is for the applicant to include the territorial designation as part of their surname ([surname] of [territorial designation]; e.g. Smith of Inverglen). The Observation would then show the holder’s full name, followed by their feudal title e.g. The holder is Brian Smith, Baron of Inverglen.” (Baron)

Foreign  barons can be called Baron. Customarily when one was introduced to a man called Baron YYYY it meant he was of foreign extraction.

The only other baron called  baron was a judge of the Exchequer who was called a baron of  the Exchequer — meaning a judge of that court.

Posted in British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, Regency era, titles of aristocracy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s “Visionary”


via Wikipedia

To really understand Prince Albert’s role in British history, one must know more of his early life. Albert Francis Charles Augustus Emmanuel of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was born on 26 August 1819 at Schloss Rosenau, in Bavaria, the younger son of the duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Albert’s roots were planted in a small European duchy, which held little influence in the great scheme of international politics until Prince Leopold married George IV’s only child, Princess Charlotte of Wales. Later, Leopold’s sister Victorie married another of George III’s sons, the Duke of Kent. Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’s “insignificance” added to Albert’s growing vision of a relationship between those who govern and those who are governed. 

When Albert was four, his mother, Duchess Louise, chose to no longer tolerate her husband’s infidelity. She sought solace in the arms of a young officer in Coburg’s army. Duchess Louise abandoned Albert and his older brother Ernest. When he was seven, Albert’s father, Duke Ernest divorced his mother in absentia on grounds of adultery, and she was sent to live in Switzerland and forbidden to see her children ever again. Duchess Louise died eight years later (1831). The duke remarried, and Albert and his brother developed a healthy relationship with their new stepmother, Princess Marie of Württemberg, who was their cousin. 

Albert was an excellent student, possessing an intelligence that proved more ordered than his future wife, Queen Victoria. He was musically talented. He studied ancient and modern history, French, Latin, natural sciences, English, mathematics, etc. He practiced an unvaried schedule throughout his life, but as a youth 6 – 8 A.M. daily was set aside for his deeper studies. Albert was educated at Bonn University.

As Queen Victoria’s consort, Albert “adopted” England’s so-called enlightenment, which was obviously nothing like the enlightenment now practiced within the United Kingdom. Albert openly purported the idea that a fair-minded monarch (who did not endorse party politics) should preside over Parliament. As devious as this might sound in light of today’s political posturing on both sides of the ocean, Albert saw his daughters as a means to spread his ideas to the thrones of other countries into which they marry. His sons’ destinies were prescribed as the children of the queen and the British rule. 

NSBqIymY_400x400Queen Victoria came to appreciate Albert’s many talents and abilities. He began by overseeing the queen’s domestic affairs of their two households. However, during her lying in and delivery of their first child, Victoria permitted Albert to act in her stead on “official” business. She pressed Albert to write memos and instructions to her various ministers, an act that Lord Melbourne referred to as “The Prince’s observations.” Albert’s efforts earned him new respect from those involved in the Queen’s business. With his keen insights, Albert managed to place his wife’s position on policies and laws in a kinder light than would likely have been achieved by Victoria herself. 

In Victoria’s Daughters (Jerrold M. Packard, St Martin’s, 1998) we learn, “Victoria’s premarital fondness for and dependence on her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne, had been thought a dangerous thing, leading to serious difficulties between the sovereign and Melbourne’s successor when Melbourne lost office. It was Albert who diplomatically, and with unarguable logic, taught his wife that the breaking of ties to any minister had to be faced to prevent constitutional injury to the monarchy. In keeping with the passionate nature of her personality, Victoria soon thereafter came under the almost complete tutelage of her prince. One official would write of Albert as ‘in fact, tho’ not in name, Her Majesty’s Private Secretary.’ Another minister went further, stating that the queen had turned Albert into a virtual ‘King-Consort,’ which had, ironically, been the title she suggested for him when the marriage negotiations first got underway.” 

From BBC History, we discover, “Albert’s role as advisor to his wife came into full force after the death of Lord Melbourne, the prime minister, who had exerted a strong paternal influence over Victoria, and Albert began to act as the queen’s private secretary. He encouraged in his wife a greater interest in social welfare and invited Lord Shaftesbury, the driving force behind successive factory acts, to Buckingham Palace to discuss the matter of child labour. His constitutional position was a difficult one, and although he exercised his influence with tact and intelligence, he never enjoyed great public popularity during Victoria’s reign. It wasn’t until 1857 that he was formally recognised by the nation and awarded the title ‘prince consort’.


Prince Albert, 1854 history/historic_figures /albert_prince.shtml

“Albert took an active interest in the arts, science, trade and industry. He masterminded the Great Exhibition of 1851, with a view to celebrating the great advances of the British industrial age and the expansion of the empire. He used the profits to help to establish the South Kensington museums complex in London.

“In the autumn of 1861, Albert intervened in a diplomatic row between Britain and the United States and his influence probably helped to avert war between the two countries. When he died suddenly of typhoid on 14 December, Victoria was overwhelmed by grief and remained in mourning until the end of her life. She commissioned a number of monuments in his honour, including the Royal Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens completed in 1876.”



Posted in Act of Parliament, British history, Great Britain, titles of aristocracy, Victorian era | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments