Where my research takes me: American princesses, free beer, and hugging



Welcome to another installment of “Where my research takes me,” an eclectic mix of cool historical tidbits I’ve uncovered in the process of my book researches. Enjoy!

1. “From the Ballroom to Hell.”

That’s one way to get a sermon written up in the newspaper: load it with fire and brimstone.


*from The San Francisco Call, February 25, 1896.

Perhaps one cannot refute the “hugging set to music” claim – why else would we do it? – but “…the stench arising from the carcass of a hog”…that’s harsh. After all, they didn’t have deodorant back then.

2. “The streets flowed with beer.”

Instead of grabbing a tankard and celebrating, the neighbors “fled from their houses in terror.”


brewery accident
The Sun, Dec 3, 1889. ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov

What an image: “Torrents of beer gushed from all the doors and windows, and, overflowing the gutters, poured into cellars….” The engineer who had to get into the engine room to fix the problem “had difficulty escaping a bath.” You simply cannot make this stuff up. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and the engineer had shinier hair afterward. 😉

3. American princesses.

snippet from The San Francisco Call, October 29, 1899. ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov
snippet from The San Francisco Call, October 29, 1899. ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov

I love the subtitle to this: “Twenty American girls who by marriage have become princesses and therefore ought to be happy.” Either the writer was irony-impaired, or these gals’ corsets are on too tightly. Below are additional snippets from the same page. Except for one lady, they don’t look terribly ecstatic to me:


View the full newspaper article here.

So, have you ever dreamed of being a princess, or wading through a sea of beer? Do you consider dancing as “hugging set to music”? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


Interested in exploring other “Where my research takes me” posts?

Having a blast in the 19th century (dynamite and bomb-making)

19th century health ads

Burglars, knitting, detective cocktails (and more)

19th century Pullman cars

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10 thoughts on “Where my research takes me: American princesses, free beer, and hugging”

  1. Margot KinbergMargot Kinberg

    I love that phrase, ‘…and therefore, ought to be happy.. So…ironic, as you say, and so reflective of the times. Thanks as ever for sharing, Kathy 🙂

  2. PatriciaPatricia

    Oh this stuff is priceless. Sure, I’d love to be a princess, but I’d much rather be happy. I guess that means I can’t marry a prince huh?

    Fun stuff.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  3. Deborah MakariosDeborah Makarios

    Kind hearts are more than coronets! There’s no-one I’d rather hug to music than my own Caped Gooseberry.

  4. Karen McFarlandKaren McFarland

    My how things have changed. There was a time where dancing close together was scandalous. So was holding hands and other things of this nature. Truly the pendulum has swung in the total opposite direction. Could it meet maybe somewhere in the middle?

    And the brewery . Oh I bet everyone smelled of beer for a week! lol.

    I just read an historical fiction novel that I think was called “The American Princess” if I’m not mistaken. Very interesting story. And yes, Lords and Barons with titles that had lost their fortune would come to america to marry an heiress. Happy? I’m not sure that was of importance to either of the couple. One regained wealth, while the other gained a title.

    Interesting research Kathy. Sorry for the delay. My head is in deep with the edits. 🙂

  5. Jenny HansenJenny Hansen

    You get to have a betterr time with research than I do, girlfriend!


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