“There is a defined gulf Between credit and character If you doubt this, ask any banker; He will advise that character is nice But it is not collateral.” Evan Rhys


Portrait  of Henry G. Marquand by John Singer Sargent

Portrait of Henry G. Marquand by John Singer Sargent



When People Get Nice On You

I was just popping in for a few minutes at the library when one of my new favorite librarians hailed me over to see what she’d found at a garage sale?!

Cover ideas for book five bursting forth as we speak!

Cover ideas for book five bursting forth as we speak!

I come from a long line of people who want to trust others, but just don’t. It’s an affliction we wear with humor and secrecy. I’m not a rock or an island. I’m a small time farmer/writer so I don’t get out much, but when I do I’m always surprised at how well I’m treated, especially at the Saratoga Library.

When on an ordinary day you suddenly have all of your questions answered about a little piece of the world you’re creating for your characters handed to you in a single brilliant bit of happenstance you have to wonder about the hidden workings of the universe (or as we old-fashioned Christians might say–God). I believe God hands out talents, but that’s for another day.

This librarian stacked five crumbling out-of-print books on my table before remembering that she’d purchased this hotel booklet. Buck Crenshaw has an eventful stay there in the summer of 1889. I’d been gathering bits and pieces but what great delight I felt when the librarian who hardly knows me said I could borrow from her personal collection this perfect book! (she also gave me the email for the contact person holding a rare house tour at Yaddo  who is looking for volunteers–who will get in for free–and the email for a lady who volunteers her time doing FREE proofreading for local authors!). What a day!


I think God may be telling me to act nicer to others . . .

Books I’ve Known And Loved

Little Books of Joy

Little Books of Joy

Are you a rule breaker? I wonder why we like to think of ourselves that way. Don’t know, but The 1865 Customs of Service for Officers and The Customs of Service for Non-commisioned Officers and Soldiers are two extremely fun books about rules and regulations. Seems sort of dull, right? Nope, not at all. Augie, as I like to call him, wrote these little gems in the 1860’s and he was a professional soldier so he knew what he was talking about.

Here’s the fun part as a writer: There’s page after page of the way things should be done, but we all know how difficult keeping track of the “shoulds”  is. Aside from the very handy descriptions of company, regiment and corps duties, battle tactics and strategy and organizational leadership techniques there’s the advice to captains and sergeants:



A great many stories about men could be taken from these very pages and when I get done with my Tenafly Road series I just may do that.

” . . .they were apt to bulge below the waist in front; for, poor dears, they were but human after all, and they had to expand somewhere.”


Learn more about underwear links:

Very sensible article about corsets

Underwear wars?

7 things women wore under their skirts

Underwear video

19th century changing silhouette at the Met

Above quote: Gwen Raverat Period Piece

The Little Bank that Could and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

Middlemay Farm:

From small beginnings a very nice man opened a bank . . .

Originally posted on Beyond the History Textbooks:

Amadeo P. Giannini (Source: PBS.org)

Amadeo P. Giannini (Source: PBS.org)

It’s like something out of It’s a Wonderful Life. A small bank provides a place for small depositors and borrowers to do business in a city dominated by big banks that serve only the wealthy. Then, after an earthquake and a fire destroy a quarter of the city, the small bank immediately rises from the ashes to provide its customers loans to rebuild and a place to safely deposit their money while the big banks close their doors for six months.

But unlike the popular movie, this story is true. In 1901, Amadeo P. Giannini had retired at the age of 31 after selling his share of a produce business for $100,000 ($2.7 million in 2014 dollars). He came out of retirement three years later to establish the Bank of Italy as “the little people’s bank,” eighteen months before the April 18, 1906 earthquake.

View original 362 more words

Death in Brooklyn

SpencerTraskAtYaddo4MSo here’s how prominent Wall Street financier Spencer Trask and his wife Katrina  lost their children: Alanson, their first son died in Brooklyn at the age of five of meningitis where first come the fevers,  then the chills and mental changes. Five years is a pretty long time to get used to someone and really grow to love them.

Spencer brought his artistic wife to Saratoga Springs in hopes of starting afresh. The couple had a daughter Christina who named their new home Yaddo and for the next few years they fixed the place up and then had another son, Spencer Jr.

220px-Katrina_Trask00Katrina caught diphtheria. Skin turns blue, coughing and drooling ensue, breathing becomes labored and bloody-watery drainage pours forth from the nose. Christina and Spencer Jr. were brought in to say their goodbyes to mommy, but mommy recovered only after giving the disease to both of her children who died a few days later.

How does one recover from this? Can someone tell me? I suppose suicide is too easy an escape. The Trasks had generous spirits, but I fear I’d have no spirit left at all.

Spencer  financed other people’s dreams. In an era of low and dirty business practices it seems Spencer was more interested in the arts and immortalizing his wife in great works of stained glass. How did he handle the constant fragmenting of his little family?

Katrina created poetry and novels forgotten today as is the very existence of children who hadn’t had time to leave much of a mark on the world. She had created them, too. She was the consummate nurturer who couldn’t protect her own children. She spoke to the spirit world and it told her to give everything to artists.

And so after the final death of a newborn son the Trasks decided that all that they had must belong to the world. Everything slips so easily through the fingers like the shadows of children lounging at your feet or playing in the yard. Roses succumb as do people to disease brought by the touches of invisible winds. Poetry is spoken between husband and wife and then one stormy night Spencer, the builder of dreams is beckoned to the city, his train crashes as he’s shaving and he slits his own throat with the razor.


Mansions for artists, children for couples, trains for rushing onward in a life that rarely lets you enjoy anything for too long–but do enjoy it. The children getting too close on a sticky day, the spouse who in all of the little ways builds a life with you despite your utter lack of gratitude for the fact that your spouse is still among the living. Most creations are never  immortalized in a great museum, but only in the collective whisper of all creation that reminds us when shadows pass over the foliage that life can be fleetingly lovely and terribly, tragically short.

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. ~George Washington Carver


On his tombstone: “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world”.

A different kind of engineer: Boss Tweed

"The way to have power is to take it." Boss Tweed

“The way to have power is to take it.” Boss Tweed

“It’s hard not to admire the skill behind Tweed’s system … The Tweed ring at its height was an engineering marvel, strong and solid, strategically deployed to control key power points: the courts, the legislature, the treasury and the ballot box. Its frauds had a grandeur of scale and an elegance of structure: money-laundering, profit sharing and organization.” Kenneth Ackerman Tweed biographer

People love a colorful criminal.  Why is that?

I’m glad after so many years of progress that our politicians have improved on their skills.

tweed nast 2

Progress is a circle not a line.