The Dreaded West Indies Posting

The Dreaded West Indies Posting

Soldier of the Black Watch c.1740, colorized {{PD-US}}   When Malcolm McPherson joined the Black Watch in 1735, he and his fellow enlistees “thought themselves destined to serve exclusively . . . in the Highlands."1 They had no expectation they’d do duty in the...

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Coffee for Two

Coffee for Two

Early coffeepots were designed to hold only a cup or two of coffee. It was only once coffee became less expensive and easy to obtain that the pots increased in size. The gem pictured (figuratively speaking—you can find one similar on eBay for under $10) is an example...

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Pimento: A Spice for the Holidays

Pimento: A Spice for the Holidays

Pimento, a spice more widely known as “allspice,” is harvested from the berries of the Pimenta dioica, a W. Indian tree commonly found on Jamaica’s north coast. It's not the Spanish red pepper, though its name is derivative of the Spanish pepper (pimiento) and it’s...

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As Rich as a Creole

As Rich as a Creole

In eighteenth-century Jamaica, a creole was a nonindigenous person born on the island, whether of European, African, or mixed descent. Those referenced in the expression “as rich as a creole,” however, were invariably of European descent. The phrase is a variant of...

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Jamaica’s Tapestried Past

Jamaica’s Tapestried Past

  I did a double take when I saw this work hanging in a Montego Bay exhibit last year. Admittedly, my interest was more than casual. I was writing Voices Echo at the time and visiting Jamaica to flesh out my research. Many of the images in the collage echoed...

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A Well-Travelled Cobblestone

A Well-Travelled Cobblestone

The story of well-traveled cobblestones, or ballast rock from foreign ports, paving America’s colonial seaport streets is a romantic one. I wonder if it’s true. What’s ballast? It’s the material carried in a ship’s hull so the ship doesn’t topple. An empty hull is...

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“Where’s Your Haggis?”

If you spent any time abroad this summer—especially with children—you might appreciate Samuel Clemens' humorous disdain for the food he encountered while traveling in 1878: Foreigners cannot enjoy our food, I suppose, any more than we can enjoy theirs. It is not...

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A Sticky Subtlety

A Sticky Subtlety

Kara Walker’s “Subtlety” is Anything But Appearances notwithstanding, it's safe to say Kara Walker didn't intend to present a sugarcoated history when she created her cast of sticky subtleties in the defunct New York Domino Sugar refinery earlier this summer. Her...

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Is the “Public Good” a Quaint Notion?

Is the “Public Good” a Quaint Notion?

Constitution Day - A Reflection on its Anniversary September 17, 2016, marks the two hundred and twenty-ninth anniversary of the final day of the U.S. Constitutional Convention—the day a miracle occurred on Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street and a gathering of men set...

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Sugarcoating History

Sugarcoating History

Sugarcoating the Unsavory Side of History Sugarcoat history? Of course we can, but should we? Not in my opinion. Still, it's a fine line to straddle when writing romantic historical fiction—particularly a story that takes place in brutal 18th-century Jamaica. I know...

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18th-Century Style Shrub

18th-Century Style Shrub

18th-Century Style Shrub 4th July by Linda Lee Graham This 4th of July, party like a colonial. Drink shrub! Shrub? It's a blend of fruit, sugar, and vinegar, and it was a colonial favorite. It’s thought the word derives from the Arabic word meaning “drink.” Granted,...

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Smithsonian Treasures

Did you know the Smithsonian is looking for Digital Volunteers? Anyone can help transcribe old and rare books and manuscripts right from home—a sentence at a time or a page at a time. I explored the site this afternoon and happened upon a treasure--an old Jamaica/Cuba...

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Drilling Rock

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” ~ Ernest Hemingway I’m in the final stages of “drilling rock” with Voices Echo! (Release date ~ May 2014) This image...

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Popular Pastime of the Past – Ice Skating

Popular Pastime of the Past – Ice Skating

Ice skating was a popular pastime for Philadelphians in the 18th century. The easily accessible Delaware River often froze, as did the Schuylkill. And even if the rivers didn't, the neighborhood ponds invariably iced over. Early accounts claim the Delaware River was...

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What’s Lurking in Your Family Tree?

I love these lyrics from “I Think I Hear a Woodpecker Knocking at My Family Tree.” They serve as a reminder that it’s best to have a sense of humor and an open mind when delving into genealogy. My family tree is an awful sight to see For the bark is all worn bare;...

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Broadsides – Trash Tabloids of Days Past

Broadsides – Trash Tabloids of Days Past

Yesterday's Tabloids Simple and cheap, broadsides were a common means of communication for close to three hundred years, up through the early 1800s. They were first used to post notices of royal proclamations and later expanded into notices of events, advertisements,...

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Jamaica’s Hurricane of 1780

Jamaica’s Hurricane of 1780

Was it a Category 5 . . . 6 . . . 7? Jamaicans had no gauge to calculate the force of the hurricane that slammed into their island on October 3, 1780. No gauge other than the baldest, yet most meaningful measurement: the loss of lives,  property, and livelihood. How...

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An Eighteenth-Century Luxury: Books

An Eighteenth-Century Luxury: Books

Just how expensive were books for the average Philadelphian in the 1780s? I've read they were a luxury, however learning an edition of The History of Ancient Greece, from the earliest time until the time it became a Roman province, by William Robertson, Esq. with a...

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Masquerades a Public Nuisance?

Masquerades a Public Nuisance?

Masked balls of the eighteenth century fostered all sorts of illicit amusements.  The events, both commercial and private, were seen by some as an opportunity to freely engage in unseemly behavior while maintaining anonymity. They were enormously popular—in...

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Lending Libraries

Lending Libraries

The demand for reading material kept pace with the growing rate of literacy in British North America, and by the last half of the eighteenth century Philadelphia boasted a small number of lending libraries to meet it. One of the public libraries was Thomas Bradford's...

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Is He “Clapt or Poxed”?

Is He “Clapt or Poxed”?

Interpreting an eighteenth century reference to the pox can be confusing. There are a number of infections referred to as poxes, and all result in pockmarks that scar the victim. However, if the context hints at some sort of “sinful” activity, it is probably safe to...

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Seven Steps to Folding Your Own Condom

Seven Steps to Folding Your Own Condom

An Eighteenth-Century Armour Known as redingotes d’Anglaise (English raincoats) by the French, and baudruches (French letters), armour, sheaths, and machines by the English, condoms were a booming trade in eighteenth-century London. No matter the dire warnings from...

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Crossing the Atlantic

Crossing the Atlantic

I booked airline tickets to Glasgow recently, from the comfort of my office chair, with the convenience of my charge card.  No sooner had I clicked the 'book it' button, did I begin to dread the thought of the inconvenient delays at the airport, the long security...

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The Industry

The Industry

The cast of characters in Voices Beckon crossed the Atlantic in the winter of 1783-4, on a ship named the Industry. The ship itself was real enough. She sailed out of Bristol, England on November 7, 1783, destined for Philadelphia. She was a brig: a two-masted,...

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Man Full of Trouble Tavern

Man Full of Trouble Tavern

by Linda Lee Graham The Man Full of Trouble Tavern is the only pre-Revolutionary tavern surviving in Philadelphia today. The Neighborhood Built in 1759 on the banks of the swampy, mosquito-infested Dock Creek, the Man Full of Trouble was a humble establishment. It...

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David Graham

Voices Beckon begins with David Graham sailing to America in the winter of 1783. While I do know he served a six year apprenticeship for the Philadelphia firm Hall & Sellers beginning in 1784, I don’t know if he was a current resident of America at the time, or if...

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Voices in My Blood

Four enticingly thick, beautifully bound volumes grace my library shelves--each documenting a branch of my family tree, each painstakingly researched, compiled, and written by my mother, and each leaving me with the urge to follow the trail further, to forge the path...

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My Progress

WIP Title - Wylie
Phase:Final Draft
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