Dragging Days? Try a “Kettle Drum”

Victorian design

“The world changes. Times change. People change. Habits change…”

Preface to Whispering Pines by Clara Endicott Sears

Daily schedules have dissolved

With more of us staying at home instead of going to work these days, daily schedules have dissolved. We don’t have to be dressed, fed, and out by 7:00. There’s no prescribed lunch hour at work or school, and the daily commute no longer defines the dinner hour.

Chambers's Journal

Browsing Chambers’s Journal from 1874 (because I have time for that now), I was struck by some similarities of life then and now.

TB posterEmilie’s grandfather, Albert Baker, died of tuberculosis in 1874. This was the leading cause of death in the United States then. Its ease of transmission was known, but the bacterium wasn’t identified, and there was no cure.

People who developed “TB” symptoms–fatigue, night sweats, persistent cough, and pain in the lungs–were often shunned.  It would be another decade before the first sanatoriums were built to quarantine and treat TB patients.

“Many lost their jobs because of the panic they created among co-workers. Many landlords refused to house them.”

American Lung Association

The “Panic of 1873” led the United States and Europe into a financial depression. It was called the “Great Depression” until the twentieth century version claimed that title. Now, it’s called the “Long Depression,” and it lasted six years. Many thousands of businesses went bankrupt, including Lee & Shepard Publishers, where Emilie’s father worked.

She couldn’t remember a time during the last few years, when Monday morning hadn’t found her mother figuring bills and her father shaking his white head over them.

As Long As I Live

Then, as now, the tempo of life slowed.

The gradual advance of dinner from six to seven o’clock, seven to eight o’clock, and even later, has thrown the system of daily meals, to speak mechanically, out of gear. One result is pretty observable. Luncheon, which used to be a trifling affair about or a little after mid-day, has expanded into a kind of dinner at two to three o’clock. (1874)

With breakfast at ten, lunch at two to three, and dinner at eight, Victorians had a five-hour gap between three o’clock and eight that begged for a little snack and beverage. Their solution: the “kettle drum.”

Boston kettle
What could be better suited?

The Kettle Drum

“Drum” was an 18th Century name for an evening party, and “kettle” referred to the tea-kettle. Tea–or sherry–and a small snack might be served at a kettle drum, but it was “scarcely a meal at all, but only an excuse for meeting together in an easy manner at an interval when one has nothing else to do.”

What could be better suited to these days when all manner of inventiveness yields to the sameness of yet another day at home?

“…the painted ancestors on the walls have been frowning with gloomy brows on the modern, fine ladies beneath; when suddenly tea is brought into that most charming room of a country-house, the inner hall or first drawing-room.”

The “inner hall” and “first drawing-room” are the same in our house–that is to say, we have a living room–but imagine the fun of announcing, “The kettle drum shall commence in the drawing room at five.”

“Smiles forthwith brighten out, and a ripple of murmured chit-chat ensues.”

I’m up for it. Shall I pour you a cup?

Garden Color

Has spring arrived where you are? On my last walk, I captured a veritable rainbow of spring color. Emilie would have loved it.

“Do you know what color does to me, Mr. Si?  It sends my courage shooting above par, gives me the-world’s-my-oyster feeling—know it?”  Hilltops Clear

It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to figure out what Emilie planted in her home gardens. Click on this link to the post, “Browsing to Connection” to see more. It’s not as easy as you’d think, using only shape and shading to identify plants, but inspired by my walk, I got out my copy of Gertrude Jekyll’s Color Scheme in the Flower Garden and got to work.

The first step is to learn what different plants look like in black-and-white. Here’s one illustration I worked on, using Miss Jekyll’s caption as a “Find the Flower” guide:

Flower identification

Their colored counterparts are here: Lily, Gypsophila, Stachys, Achillea, Hollyhocks

Here’s one for you to try.

Can you find them
See if you can find each of the flowers listed above.

Now, see what you can do with Emilie’s garden, with no caption to guide you. I don’t have all of these solved, so if you do, send me your identifications! (contact@pattibender.com)

A 1924 Feb
Which plants can you identify in Emilie’s garden?

Book Covers and Early Posts

I’ve also been meaning to answer questions from readers about the cover art on Emilie Loring’s books. In an earlier post, I mis-labeled a painting in the Loring home as the original cover for The Trail of Conflict. It wasn’t. It was the cover for The Solitary Horseman.

Thanks to Vickie for the catch. I’ve corrected the caption–important to do!

Emilie Loring Collection
There is a lot of content here!

224 Posts and Counting…

This post is my 224th. I can hardly believe it, myself. Even if you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, take some time to look back at earlier posts. It’s been more than four years since the start (November, 2015), and so much of it feels new again on re-reading. I’m especially fond of these:

Sea Glass and Storytelling

When You Share the Things You Love

“I love your grandmother”

And we had fun with: Who Would You Cast in the Movie?

As you browse, be sure to write comments when you have them! I read and answer them all.

Afternoon Tea

You may wonder why Emilie Loring never mentioned a “kettle drum” in her books. Things got better. Personal and professional lives got back on track. Schedules returned to normal, including afternoon tea at four o’clock.


“I am neither a super-optimist nor a Pollyanna, but behind the thickest cloud, behind the darkest situation, somehow, I sense the sun ready to break through. Why not? It has always.”

Emilie Loring

I’ve enjoyed our chat. Let me know how you do with your next kettle drum.

Happy Landings, everyone!

14 thoughts on “Dragging Days? Try a “Kettle Drum”

  1. Fun post. I probably could not guess the flowers in color either.
    THe kettle drum sounds nice. I often feel ready for refreshments about 3-5 pm, before dinner. I like lemonade myself as well.

    Interesting that the late 19C depression was instigated by the TB outbreak. I didn’t know that.

    Trying to have structure with school continuing for another 4 weeks. who’s counting? I’ve gotten caught up in PBS “World on Fire” as well as another WW2 show from France, “A French Village”. Interesting stories about human lives, not at the front, affected by war. It’s interesting to compare Brit TV to French TV.

    –Is the editing process of the biography continuing? How is the shutdown affecting your book’s progress?

    Happy Landings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Peggy. Small correction: the TB problems coincided with the financial panic and depression but were not the root cause. Long story, but it had more to do with the gold standard, industrialization, etc., etc. Still, 1874 was a little like now in the scope and severity of effects.
      I just received edits from one reader and have the manuscript out with another. Not sure how the next phase will go; historically, there’s been a contraction in printed book production during protracted downturns, but we’ll see.
      Happy Landings!


      1. Thanks for the correction. Those details are important.

        Good luck on the editing/publishing process continuing.
        Hang in there.
        Happy Landings!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Patti,
    Speaking of TB, If you would like some interesting and entertaining reading during these slow days, see if you can locate “The Plague and I”. It’s by Betty MacDonald who also wrote “The Egg and I”. She wittily writes about her stay in a TB sanitorium. I am not sure of the time when she was institutionalized but her book was published in 1948 when the treatment was very primitive compared to today’s treatment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I never heard much from my family about pandemics. I did ask my grandmother about having the flu. She said she did once. Because they were farmers with little money, no doctor was summoned. She put cool cloths on her forehead. As for tea? My mom and sisters drank lots of sweet tea, but not me.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That was good news, but the experience must still have been hard on your family. Sanatoriums tended to be on hills where they would catch the breezes. “Miasma”—disease carried in the air—was a fear.


Please write your comment here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s