Bok Is Back

Americans have no taste, but I'll change that!

Americans have no taste, but I’ll change that!

“When he looked at the houses in which his subscribers lived, their drab hideousness made him sick. When he went inside and contemplated the lambrequins, the gilded cattails, the Rogers groups, the wax fruit under glass domes, the emblazoned seashells from Asbury Park, the family Bible on the marble-topped center-table, the crayon enlargements of Uncle Richard and Aunt Sue, the square pianos, the Brussels carpets, the grained woodwork—when his eyes alighted upon such things, his soul revolted, and at once his moral enthusiasm incited him to attempt a reform. The result was a long series of Ladies’ Home Journal crusades against the hideousness of the national scene – in domestic architecture, in house furnishing, in dress, in town buildings, in advertising. Bok flung himself headlong into his campaigns, and practically every one of them succeeded. … If there were gratitude in the land, there would be a monument to him in every town in the Republic. He has been, aesthetically, probably the most useful citizen that ever breathed its muggy air.”  H.L. Mencken said of Ladies’ Home Journal editor Edward Bok. Wikipedia

Sure he was contemptuous of American style, housing and in the end, most women, but he had a heart. The kind of heart that believes that with one more philanthropic endeavor and a little tweaking of the common man’s tendency towards mediocrity, the world will be a better place. If only grand gardens and church bells brought moral uplift! If only Americans read better books! If only a few finely written human words could bring world peace! But it was not to be. The 20th century, even with the bungalow, was a disaster.

Edward Bok may not have saved America from itself–though he did convince people that the bungalow design in housing originally from India was the height of solid taste and he did leave us with what looks to be a heavenly spot in Florida! Check it out.

Desperately In Need of Someone To Make Supper . . .

Knowledge, uplift and a mutton chop.

Knowledge, uplift and a mutton chop.

We all agreed only yesterday that women should remain attractive in all they do. A well-made apron adds the perfect touch. The Delineator Magazine of January 1886 offers us some much needed further advice for planning our day. Slip out for a nice morning walk and then heat up the wood stove for an average day of cooking in your favorite dress–watch the ruffles and the trains! There are meals to be made:


Cooked Wheat with Cream

A Ragout or Mutton Chop

Lyonnaise Potatoes    Graham Gems

Home Baked White and Graham Breads



Warm Meat in Slices

Baked or Fried Potatoes   Canned or Cooked Fruit

Rebecca Cake

Tea or Coffee


Tomato or Bisque Soup

Baked Fish with Oyster Sauce

Roast Goose

Apple Sauce   Boiled Onions

Potato Puff   Celery Salad

Spanish Cream

Nuts   Fruit



Hmm, now where's my apron?

Hmm, now where’s my apron?

Contrary to popular belief many middle class women did not have servants but for the lucky ones here was some very useful advice:

“Pick a sturdy German girl for drudgery (Buck Crenshaw in my fifth novel picks a German girl to help his wife but she quits)

Where hours are irregular, and where the house mother needs sympathy . . .the warm-hearted Irish.

For loyalty and conscientious attention to duty . . . the Scotch cannot be surpassed.

Whatever the nationality of our domestics we are all one family and one in our Father.

In Englewood where my books take place it was more common to hire black servants since after the Civil War many settled in the Fourth Ward of the town. Margaret Crenshaw’s servant Lucretia is a trusted friend and Margaret promises Buck she will find the best house servant for Buck’s new wife even if it’s only an Irish girl.