Happy 150th Birthday, Emilie Loring!

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Illustration from George M. Baker’s  Ballads of Home

One hundred fifty years ago, September 5, 1866, at 5 Chardon Street in Boston, Maria Emily Baker was born to George Melville Baker and Emily Frances (Boles) Baker.  If there were an “On the Day You Were Born” greeting card back then, it could have included some of these…

“Here are the headlines on the day you were born” … except that there weren’t headlines then, just ads and articles.

Boston Post front page
Boston Post, September 5, 1866

The Civil War was over, and Andrew Johnson was President.  The wooden-hulled, brig-rigged steamer Arago, once filled with discharged, wounded, and dead soldiers from the battle of Fort Sumter, had been converted to a cruise ship.  First-class fare to Europe was $100, second-class $50.  Travelers were reassured that an experienced surgeon was on board.

Fall Fashion:  The hoop skirt was “in,” particularly the new, double-spring skirt.  While holding the skirt fashionably full, the springs allowed it to be easily compressed when the wearer found herself in a tight space. Imagine going down the aisle of any store in one of these skirts and then turning around.  Swish, crash!

Housewares ads:

Swedish safety matches
Swedish safety matches

“A Scandinavian chemist has produced, to bless mankind, the long looked-for alchemy, the UNIVERSAL SAFETY MATCH made without sulfur or phosphorus. Cheapest as well as best. Three cents per box; thirty cents per dozen.”


“French teazles. A complete assortment just received, carefully assorted and packed in casks.”  I was confounded by these and tempted to think all sorts of things. But teazle turns out to be the same as ‘teasel,” a medicinal herb.

Another curiosity:  “sugar box shooks.”  These were a set of boards used to assemble a sugar box but packed together, unassembled, for transport.  Think of them as “early IKEA.”

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Miss Fanny Davenport

Entertainment:  Edwin Booth was at the Boston Theater, playing the part of Iago in “Othello.”  Audiences still adored him, although his brother, John Wilkes Booth, had assassinated President Lincoln.  Here’s something amazing: A wax recording was made of him performing this role.  You can listen to it on YouTube.

Miss Fanny Davenport was in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at the Continental. She would became famous and give Emilie’s father credit for “discovering” her, but that day, a critic wrote that she “looks so charming in her antique dress that the audience is willing to forgive her lameness of action.”

Transportation: These were “horse and buggy” days, and September fifth’s newspaper advertised a wide assortment of carriages.  Note the “surrey with the fringe on top!”  They all look so crisp and clean, but that’s because there are no horses attached. Emilie’s family lived at Bowdoin Square and knew better.  Here is an excerpt from her biography:

There were five livery stables on the block, and the air was filled with the smells and sounds of a central distribution point of the horse railroads–sweat, manure, the incessant clopping of hooves, snorts of horses, calls of hostlers, the creaking carriages, and the bells of horse cars.  Happy Landings: The Life Behind Emilie Loring’s Stories

Birthday plateHoroscope:  Emilie Loring’s September fifth birthday made her a Virgo, but there would be no point in talking to her about that. On a radio quiz show in 1940, there was only one question she could not answer: her astrological sign.

September’s flower: Chrysanthemum.  Almost every Emilie Loring book has a bowl of chrysanthemums on the table.

She had tried to have the dinner as much like those they had had in their own home as possible, even to the mass of yellow and bronze chrysanthemums in the centre of the table.  With Banners

September’s birthstone: Sapphire.  Emilie inherited two sapphire-and-diamond rings from her sister Rachel, but she wrote about emeralds more.  Her most favorite jewelry was a pearl necklace.

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Emilie Baker Loring

Emilie stopped celebrating her birthdays and, instead, gave herself a present to celebrate each new book when it came out.  Since she wrote at least one each year, that worked out fine. I like the idea of celebrating accomplishments instead of simply the passing of another year. It’s nice to keep going, but going toward something is even nicer.

[She] had so much to do. Life was sweet when one lived in a world packed with possibilities of achievement. Swift Water

If you do something to celebrate Emilie’s birthday today, write and share, won’t you?  I think I’ll put on my pearls, pour a cup of tea, and read High of Heart.

Happy Birthday, Emilie!








4 thoughts on “Happy 150th Birthday, Emilie Loring!

  1. Happy birthday, Emilie! Great info here. Amazing that the author who created such thoroughly modern characters was born right after the civil war. (I love that she didn’t know her astrological sign!)


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