Chicken and Waffles

Below is an article about the dish known as Chicken and Waffles:

CHICKEN AND WAFFLES

Considered an American dish, Chicken and Waffles is a fusion of two food times – chicken and waffles. The dish is part of a variety of culinary traditions that include soul food and Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. It is served in certain specialty restaurants in the United States. The combination that is regarded as part of African-American or Southern tradition is usually served with condiments such as butter and syrup and has become a local custom in Baltimore, Maryland. However, the Pennsylvania Dutch version of the dish is usually served with pulled or stewed chicken and gravy on top. This version has become a custom in Northeastern United States.

Several theories about the origin of Chicken and Waffles do exist. But they are theories and is not exactly regarded as fact. Waffles entered American cuisine in the 1600s with the arrival of European colonists. A chef to the prince-bishop of Liège originated the waffles used in this particular dish in the 18th century. The popularity of waffles saw a boost following Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of four waffle irons in Amsterdam after 1789.

Hotels and resorts outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania began serving waffles with fried catfish in the early 1800s. Such establishments also served other dishes like fried chicken, which gradually became the meat of choice due to catfish’s limited availability. By the 1840s, broiled chicken and waffles became the specialty at Warriner’s Tavern in Springfield, Massachusetts. The establishment was owned by Jeremy and Phoebe Warriner, two well-known African-American abolitionists. The Warriners hired African-American women as cooks for the tavern. They were usually freed or runaway slaves who had learned their trade in Southern plantation kitchens. Chicken and Waffles had been extravagant breakfast staples in plantation houses through much of the South. Earlier, I had pointed out that the chicken served with waffles by the Pennsylvania Dutch was usually stewed and topped with gravy. This version had became an established common Sunday dish among the Pennsylvania Dutch by the 1860s.

The combination of chicken and waffles did not appear in early Southern cookbooks such as “Mrs. Porter’s Southern Cookery Book”, published in 1871; or in the first African-American cookbook, “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking”, published in 1881 by former slave Abby Fisher. The lack of a recipe for the combination of chicken and waffles in Southern cookbooks during the post-Civil War era may suggest a later origin for the dish. Popular culture had associated Chicken and Waffles with the South by 1917 with the publication of Edna Ferber’s novel, “Fanny Herself”.

Fried Chicken and Waffles had arrived in Los Angeles, California by 1931. The dish was served at The Maryland, a local restaurant that marketed the dish as a Southern specialty. The protagonist in James M. Cain’s 1941 novel “Mildred Pierce” was a woman who finds success serving “chicken-and-waffle dinner” at her Glendale restaurant. Chicken and Waffles had become a staple in New York City’s African-American community in Harlem as early as the 1930s in such locations as Tillie’s Chicken Shack, Dickie Wells’ jazz nightclub, and particularly the Wells Supper Club. The dish eventually regained popularity in Los Angeles in the 1970s, due to the fame of former Harlem resident Herb Hudson’s restaurant Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. The latter has become known as a favorite of some Hollywood celebrities and been referenced in several movies.

Below is a recipe for Chicken and Waffles from the Delish website:

Chicken and Waffles

Ingredients

Fried Chicken
1 quart buttermilk
2 tbsp. kosher salt
Mix of bone-in chicken thighs, breasts, and drumsticks (about 2 lbs.)
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tbsp. paprika

Waffles
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
6 tbsp. butter, melted, plus more for waffle iron
3 Large eggs, separated
1 tsp. cayenne
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Large eggs

Preparation

1. Brine chicken – In a large bowl, mix together buttermilk and 2 tablespoons salt. Add chicken and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

2. Meanwhile, make waffles – Preheat oven to 200°. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and a pinch of kosher salt.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, milk, butter and egg yolks. Gently fold wet mixture into dry mixture.

4. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped egg whites into batter, being careful not to over mix. (A few fluffy streaks of whites are fine!)

5. Heat waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instruction. When the iron is hot, brush grates with melted butter. Spoon about ⅓ cup of batter into waffle maker and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter. Place cooked waffles in a clean kitchen towel on a baking sheet. Place in oven to keep warm while preparing chicken.

6. When ready to fry – Fill a Dutch oven fitted with a candy thermometer with vegetable oil until 2″ to 3″ deep, then preheat until oil reaches 350º. Prepare one sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack.

7. Transfer chicken from brine to another sheet pan and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper.

8. In a large, deep bowl, whisk together flour, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. In a large bowl, beat eggs with 2 tablespoons water. Using tongs, place chicken in egg mixture, roll in flour mixture, and shake off excess. Fry chicken in 2 batches until golden brown and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes (internal temperature should read 165º). Bring oil back to 350º before adding last batch.

9. Place chicken on wire rack and season with salt immediately. Plate waffles with a pat of butter and top with 2 to 3 pieces of fried chicken. Serve with maple syrup on the side for drizzling.

Advertisement

“THE WAY WEST” (1967) Review

“THE WAY WEST” (1967) Review

Years ago, I had watched a 1952 movie called “THE BIG SKY”. The movie was an adaptation of a novel written by A.B. Guthrie Jr. I eventually learned that Guthrie had used some of the characters featured in “THE BIG SKY” and created a series of novels set between 1830 and the 1880s. One of them was the 1949 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Way West”.

Twenty-eight years after the 1949 novel’s release, Harold Hecht produced an film adaptation of it. Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, “THE WAY WEST” told the story about an Oregon-bound wagon train being led west by a former U.S. senator. Throughout the journey, the wagon train emigrants endure weather, accidents, encounters with Native Americans and the usual personal dramas that beset a group of people forced to live with one another over a long period of time. Many film critics have dismissed “THE WAY WEST” over the years, comparing it unfavorably to the 1962 movie, “HOW THE WEST WAS WON”. I never understood this comparison. The 1962 film was about the history of one family during most of the 19th century West. Out of the film’s five segments – two had focused on members of the family emigrating to the West. “THE WAY WEST” told the story of the members of one Oregon-bound wagon train in the year 1843.

Before one starts speculating over how a film with a 122 minutes running time could tell the story about all members of a wagon train. It cannot. Guthrie’s novel, along with Ben Maddow and Mitch Lindemann’s screenplay focused on a group of people:

*William Tadock – former U.S. senator and captain of the “Liberty Wagon Train”
*Lije Evans – restless Missouri farmer who decides to move his family to the Oregon Territory at the last moment
*Rebecca Evans – Lije’s pragmatic wife
*Brownie Evans – Lije and Rebecca’s shy son
*Dick Summers – widowed mountain man and guide for the wagon train
*Mr. McBee – Georgia-born farmer hoping to start a peach farm
*Mrs. McBee – wife of Mr. McBee
*Mercy McBee – flirtatious only child of the McBees and the object of Brownie’s desire
*John “Johnnie” Mack – recently married emigrant and object of Mercy’s desire
*Amanda Mack – Johnnie’s sexually frigid bride

There are aspects of “THE WAY WEST” that I found unappealing. One of those aspects proved to be Bronislau Kaper’s score for the film. I found it bombastic, awkward and unmemorable. Enough said. I was also not that impressed by some of the performances found in the film – especially from some of the supporting cast and one of the major leads. And like many other historical or period dramas, “THE WAY WEST” suffered from a few historical inaccuracies. Wagon trains were usually pulled by either oxen or mules. The stock used to convey the “Liberty Wagon Train” from Missouri to Oregon proved to be a hodge podge of horses, mules and oxen. I realize that “THE WAY WEST” is basically a Western about overland travel, but I found the costumes designed by Norma Koch very disappointing. The costumes looked as if they came straight from a warehouse. None of the women wore any layers of petticoats or corsets. And Koch’s costume designs for the McBee family proved to be a real head scratcher. I got the feeling she was trying to convey the family’s background as Georgia dirt farmers barely able to afford the journey to Oregon. Their clothes looked threadbare in compare to their fellow emigrants. And it is a miracle that the McBees did not finish their journey nearly naked. If the McBees were able to afford the journey to Oregon, they could afford to wear better quality clothing than what they wore.

The biggest historical head scratcher occurred midway into the film. During a social gathering between the emigrants and a group of Sioux warriors, one of the emigrants mistook the Sioux leader’s son for a wolf. The emigrant killed the boy and failed to inform the others of the incident. This led the Sioux to later track down the wagon party and demand the killer face justice. Initially, the wagon emigrants refused to comply until they discovered that a very large party of warriors had accompanied the Sioux leader. I am sorry, but I found this scenario improbable. The only times I could recall that many Native Americans gathering at one spot in the history of the American West was at the council for the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie and the Battle of Little Bighorn. And considering that the Cheyenne nation were spread out from present-day southern North Dakota and Wyoming to northern Colorado, I found this encounter between the Tadlock wagon party and the Sioux historically improbable.

Despite its flaws, I actually enjoyed “THE WAY WEST”. Very much. I can see why the original novel won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in the first place. First of all, I enjoyed how the movie opened with a montage of westbound emigrants arriving and organizing in Independence to the movie’s The plot struck me as a solid psychological drama about how a group of strangers struggled to tolerate each other, while traveling long distance during a period between four to five months in a wagon train. Knowing myself, I would probably go crazy dealing with strangers who irritated me after more than two weeks. Perhaps less. And having to deal with a ruthless and controlling personality like former U.S. Senator William Tadlock? Good Lord!

In fact, I find it interesting how the megalomaniacal Tadlock seemed to have an impact on the other major subplots in this film, one way or the other. He and the easy-going farmer Lije Evans managed to consistently clash with each other from the beginning. Evans resents his controlling style of leadership, but seemed reluctant to replace him. The former senator’s attraction toward Lije’s wife Rebecca did not help matters. In onescene, Tadlock had offered himself as a potential wife to Rebecca . . . in case Lije failed to survive the journey to Oregon. I could not decide whether to be surprised or disgusted by his suggestion. Tadlock even had an impact on the Brownie Evans-Mercy McBee romantic quagmire with John and Amanda Mack.

And yet . . . despite being such a megalomaniacal personality, I must admit that I found some of Tadlock’s decisions. For example, Lije Evans and the other wagon party members wanted to fight the Sioux, instead of giving in to the latter’s demand for the Sioux boy’s killer. I suspect that a combination of racism and braggadocio led the emigrants believe it would be better to fight the Sioux than submit one of their own to justice. Tadlock, to his credit, realized it would be wiser to give in to the Sioux’s demand. I also found myself agreeing with his order that the emigrants ditch all non-essential possession in order to lighten the load for the stock that pulled their wagons. Unfortunately, Tadlock’s anger at Evans’ stubborn refusal to give up Mrs. Evans’ floor clock spun out of control and cost him his position as the wagon train’s leader. I would expand more about the human drama found in “THE WAY WEST”. But to do so would give away the plot.

Although I had a problem with the film’s music and costume designs, I certainly had none with its cinematography. “THE WAY WEST” was shot on location in Arizona and Oregon. And I found William H. Clothier’s cinematography outstanding, thanks to its sharp and colorful photography shown in the images below:

Another aspect of “THE WAY WEST” that impressed me, proved to be the sequence for its opening credits. This sequence was basically a montage of emigrants arriving in Independence, Missouri or forming wagon trains for the westbound journey. Despite Bronislau Kaper’s forgettable score and equally forgettable theme song, I thought the sequence permeated with atmosphere and strong sense of how Independence must have been during that period in history. The sequence’s strong atmosphere benefited from Andrew V. McLeglen’s skillful direction, Otho Lovering’s editing and Robert Priestley’s set direction.

For me, the performances in “THE WAY WEST” proved to be a mixed affair. A good number of the supporting performers gave some hammy performances. Most of them portrayed minor characters. But the two hammy performances that seemed to stand out belonged to Richard Widmark as Lije Evans and Jack Elam as Preacher Weatherby. Widmark seemed as if he was trying too hard to convey Evans’ good-natured personality . . . to the point that his performance seemed forced. I did not enjoy admitting that. Mind you, Widmark had some good moments, especially in those scenes in which Lije clashed with Tadlock. Otherwise . . . I found him just a tad over-the-top for my tastes. Elam portrayed a minister named Preacher Weatherby, who had sneaked aboard one of the wagons in an effort to join the wagon train. Not only did I find his portrayal of the “hell and brimstone” minister over-the-top, but also one-dimensional. On the other hand, there was one performance that seemed to go in the complete opposite direction. I am referring to Michael Witney, who portrayed John “Johnnie” Mack, one half of the newlywed couple and the object of Mercy McBee’s desire. Witney may have avoided giving a hammy performance, but he ended up being rather wooden – at least in my eyes. Watching his performance, I found myself wondering how his character managed to generate so much emotion from both Mercy McBee and his wife, Amanda.

Thankfully, “THE WAY WEST” had its share of good and excellent performances. Ironically, two of them came from Harry Carey Jr. and Connie Sawyer. Yes, I will admit they gave hammy performances as Mr. and Mrs. McBee. But their hamminess struck me as so entertaining that I could not dismiss the performances. It seemed as if both really enjoyed themselves. “THE WAY WEST” also featured solid performances from the likes of Patric Knowles, Stubby Kaye, Katherine Justice and Eve McVeagh.

But there were also exceptional performances in “THE WAY WEST”. One came from the likes of Lola Albright, who gave a competent performances as Rebecca Evans, a woman torn between her love for Lije. I thought Michael McGreevey, who gave a very skillful performance as the Evans’ shy and lovesick son, Brownie. Sally Field revealed signs of future stardom with a great performance as the ebullient, sexual and painfully naive Mercy McBee. Robert Mitchum seemed to be the film’s backbone, thanks to his portrayal of the wagon train’s warm, yet pragmatic scout Dick Summers. I especially enjoyed his scenes with McGreevey. But if I had to give the award for the film’s best performance, it would go to Kirk Douglas for his superb portrayal of the very complex and magnetic former Senator William Tadlock. Douglas’ performance struck me as so exceptionally complex that there were times I found myself wondering whether or not I should like him or not.

What else can I say about “THE WAY WEST”? Well, the movie had its flaws. I cannot deny it. But I feel that its virtues definitely outweighed its flaws. And I think that it does not deserve the lukewarm opinions it has received over the years. Thanks to screenwriters Ben Maddow and Mitch Lindemann; a first-rate cast led by Kirk Douglas, Richard Widmark and Robert Mitchum; and excellent direction from Andrew V. McLaglen; I believe “THE WAY WEST” is a lot better than it is reputed to be.

“EL DORADO WEST” [PG] – Chapter Fifteen

The following is Chapter Fifteen of my story about a pair of free black siblings making the journey to California in 1849:

Chapter Fifteen – Fort Kearny

May 31, 1849
The wagon train finally arrived at Fort Kearny, during the late afternoon. Two weeks ago, I would have welcomed our arrival. But not now. Something disturbing has happened. Mr. Wendell has been detained, due to Mr. Goodwin’s accusation that he was the fugitive slave.

Not long after our arrival, Mr. Goodwin approached the fort’s commander, a Lieutenant Woodbury, and accused Mr. Wendell of being the fugitive slave wanted back in Franklin, Missouri. The odious man had kept a copy of the handbill with the fugitive’s description. And it nearly descri

bed Mr. Wendell to a T.

Mr. James immediately protested against Mr. Goodwin’s accusation, claiming that he has known Mr. Wendell for over a decade. Both Benjamin and Mr. Robbins backed him, recalling how the two men had greeted each other back in Missouri. Mr. James also added that when he had first met Mr. Wendell, the latter was already a freedman from Maryland. And he pointed out Mr. Wendell’s knowledge of the Plains and the trail, something no Missouri slave would have any knowledge of. None of the members of our wagon train could deny this. But when Mr. Wendell produced a piece of paper, declaring his status as a free man from Maryland, the matter was settled. Lieutenant Woodbury dropped the matter, much to Mr. Goodwin’s embarrassment.

June 1, 1849
Due to the late hour of our arrival, yesterday; my fellow travelers and I did not get a decent look at the fort until this morning. If I must be frank, Fort Kearny is a dismal affair. I had expected a citadel on the prairie. Instead, it turned out to be nothing more than a collection of adobe huts grouped together. Did the Army really expect Lieutenant Woodbury and his men to repel hordes of Indians from this place? Perhaps I had expected too much. After all, Fort Kearny has only been in existence for a year. And according to one of the troopers, its still being constructed.

Fort Kearny does have one thing in its favor. It has plenty of supplies for westbound emigrants . . . and at decent prices. According to Lieutenant Woodbury, our wagon train was the fourth one to arrive in the past three weeks. Benjamin and I purchased more cornmeal, coffee and other foodstuff for the journey.

I also noticed that both Mr. Wendell and Mr. James have been maintaining a cool distance from the Goodwins, especially the elder Mr. Goodwin. I cannot blame them, especially Mr. Wendell. But I still have questions about his strong resemblance to the fugitive slave that was being hunted . . . and why he had been wearing the very waistcoat that I first saw on one of the slave catchers.

End of Chapter Fifteen

“EL DORADO WEST” [PG] – Chapter Fourteen

The following is Chapter Fourteen of my story about a pair of free black siblings making the journey to California in 1849:

Chapter Fourteen – A Fine Romance

May 29, 1849
Today proved to be an exceptionally pleasant day. More than pleasant, if I must be honest . . . but I will touch upon that matter, later. After several days of rain, our wagon train encountered bright sunshine and blue skies. The positive change in the weather seemed to have improved everyone’s mood and led to good behavior. For once, Benjamin was able to spend all day without complaining about any unladylike behavior I might display – well, most of the day. Even Clive Anderson and Marcus Cross managed to spend the entire day without exchanging one hostile word or glance. A miracle indeed.

I might as well confess. The weather, the scenery and the lack of conflict made the day pleasant for me. But what made this day more than pleasant were the hour or two spent in Mr. Wendell’s company. Mr. James wanted to spend some time with Benjamin – to reminisce about old Mr. Whitman, I suspect. Our intrepid guide lent me his horse, a handsome chestnut gelding named Spirit. Frankly, I welcomed the chance to ride Mr. James’ horse. The latter reminded me of the mare I had left behind in Cleveland. And sitting on a wagon buckboard for hours could be strenuous on my lower back.

No sooner than I found myself on Spirit, Mr. Wendell appeared by my side and asked me to ride with him, as he scouted the trail ahead. A deep suspicion appeared in my mind that both Mr. Wendell and Mr. James had arranged this. We soon found ourselves cantering several yards ahead of the train. I told him about the Flemings and my childhood back in Cleveland. He told me about his childhood in a town called Frederick in Maryland. Mr. Wendell’s parents had been slaves before their emancipation just weeks before the outbreak of the second war against England. He was the youngest son and the fourth child in a family of five. After meeting Mr. James and Mr. Whitman, Mr. Wendell left his family at the age of sixteen to head West.

Mr. Wendell’s family background seemed very intriguing to me. But I remained curious about whether he had been the runaway slave being hunted back in Missouri. I meant to question him on the matter, but Mr. Wendell suggested that I follow him, as he rode further ahead of the wagon train. Although reluctant to follow him at first, a feeling washed over me that he could be trusted. So, we both rode further ahead, until the wagon train disappeared from our view.

The handsome scout led me to a small bluff just southwest of the wagon train, where we dismounted from out mounts. The bluff overlooked a sight that left me completely breathless. Not only was I able to spot our own wagon train rambling westward, I also saw several other trains that traveled ahead and behind us. The entire horizon seemed to team with canvas-topped wagons. I exclaimed that all of North America seemed to be traveling west.

“Maybe,” Mr. Wendell replied. “I’ve never seen this many wagons on the trail. Not in the twelve years I’ve spent out west.”

As we continued to eye the view below us, I spotted what seemed to be a wide stream or narrow river in the western horizon. Mr. Wendell informed me that was the Platte River. It did not strike me as an impressive body of water. Mr. Wendell added that the water tend to be brackish. “With all of these trains using the water, I reckon it must be a lot worse, now.”

Mr. Wendell remained rooted in the same spot for several minutes. Before I could control myself, I leaned back against his chest, finding the contact warm and very reassuring. I finally realized what I had done and quickly removed my head from his chest. Mr. Wendell gently grabbed hold of my shoulders and turned me around to face him. A languorous settled between us and I felt certain that he would kiss me. Instead, Mr. Wendell merely stared into my eyes before suggesting that we mount our horses. As we rode back to the wagon train, I felt a sense of disappointment that he did not kiss me.

Later that evening, Mr. Wendell informed everyone else that we should be reaching the Platte River within days. No one said a word about my early afternoon excursion with Mr. Wendell . . . except for Benjamin. My dear brother lectured me about being alone with a man, claiming that it was improper for a young woman like me to be alone with any man other than himself. Benjamin also ordered me never to leave the train alone with Mr. Wendell or any other male member of the train. I did not respond, for I promised myself that I would disobey him the first chance I got. At least as far as Mr. Wendell was concerned.

End of Chapter Fourteen

“EL DORADO WEST” [PG] – Chapter Thirteen

The following is Chapter Thirteen of my story about a pair of free black siblings making the journey to California in 1849:

Chapter Thirteen – New Experiences and Friendships

May 21, 1849
The wagon company has spotted its first buffalo herd, today. Contrary to popular belief, they struck me as docile creatures. Quite like cattle. They quietly gaze on the prairie grass, seemingly oblivious to the dozen wagons that rolled by. I must say that their appearance seemed nothing like a cow or bull – especially with their short shaggy fur, small eyes and little horns that protrude from the top of their heads like little devils.

“They can be quite the devils, Miss Alice,” Mr. Wendell commented. “Try facing one of them creatures while it’s stampedes toward you. Steam comes out of their nostrils and their eyes turn red.”

Personally, I found his description of the buffalo slightly difficult to accept. But I remained silent. Instead, I asked Mr. Wendell about the beast’s meat. I wanted to know how it taste. “You’ll find out,” he answered. “When Hadley returns with a bull or two.” Mr. James, Warren Palmer and Joel Moore had left the company for a buffalo hunting expedition. Ben had been invited to accompany the three hunters, but rejected their offer. Apparently, he considered me incapable of driving the wagon. Nor did he want to leave me alone to . . . fend for myself.

Mr. James’ little expedition resulted in two buffaloes, both shot by our intrepid guide. After he and Mr. Wendell had skinned and butchered the beasts, they distributed the meat to each wagon. Buffalo steaks became the main course this evening. Compare to regular beef, it had a rich . . . almost gamy flavor. Mr. James and Mr. Wendell also consumed the buffaloes’ intestines. Watching them pull and stretch the tube-like entrails over a fire seemed disgusting. But when each man took an intestine, threw back his head and swallowed them whole, I had to turn away.

May 24, 1849
High winds and heavy rain battered our wagon company today. Despite all of this, we managed to travel at least fifteen miles before finally camping on a bluff above the Big Blue River, high above the threat of the flooding water. Mrs. Robbins had invited me to join her inside her wagon, while her husband and Ben helped guard the camp tonight.

Thanks to a little brandy Mrs. Robbins had stored with her other provisions, I learned a great deal about the Kentucky couple. They had two grown sons who owned farms in Illinois. Albert J. and Dorcas Robbins had already buried two other babies during the early years of their marriage. The Robbins belong to that unknown society that consisted of abolitionists from the Southern states. Mr. Robbins’ hatred of the slavery institution stemmed from the years he had been raised on his uncle’s tobacco farm somewhere in Harrison County, Kentucky. Mrs. Robbins’ family – the Beeches – originally hailed from Delaware and were originally indentured servants.

Just last November, the Robbins had helped two runaway slaves cross the Ohio River into freedom. Unfortunately, a neighbor discovered their actions and informed the local law. The couple managed to cross the Ohio, with the law close on their heels. Fortunately, they eventually evaded their pursuers and ended up outside of Jonesboro, Illinois – where their sons had settled.

“How exciting!” I exclaimed, while sipping brandy. “But why did you not remain with your sons?”

Mrs. Robbins replied that news of James Marshall’s gold discovery had convinced the couple to move further west. “Albert doubts that we will ever find any gold there. But he would like to start his own farm or ranch.”

“I wish I could say the same for Ben,” I said. “Gold seemed to be his only motivation.”

“And you?”

The Kentucky woman’s question threw me off-balance momentarily before I decided to be honest. I told her of my desire to see the West and California. I also told her of my troubles with my family – especially with my parents – over my decision to reject Charles Marshall’s offer of marriage. After a moment’s pause, Mrs. Robbins brought up the topic of Elias Wendell. “Do you believe he was the runaway that those Missouri catchers were searching for? I do.” She then revealed what Ben and I had already noticed – namely the blue waistcoat that one of the slave catchers and later, Mr. Wendell had worn. “Of course, he ain’t wearing it now.”

I had also noticed the disappearance of the waistcoat. I suspect that Mr. Wendell had rid himself of the piece of clothing after our arrival in Independence. “Why . . . I mean, do you suspect that the Goodwins might say anything about Mr. Wendell?”

Mrs. Robbins assured me that the Tennesseans had lost their chance to expose Mr. Wendell, now that we were on the trail. However, she pointed out that their chances would be renewed either in Fort Kearny or Fort John on the Laramie.

End of Chapter Thirteen

TIME MACHINE: Compromise of 1850

TIME MACHINE: COMPROMISE OF 1850

One hundred and seventy-two years ago marked the passage of the controversial document, the Compromise of 1850. The document was a package of five separate bills passed by the United States Congress in September 1850. These bills were used to defuse a political confrontation between slave and free states on the status of territories acquired after the Mexican–American War.

A new debate over slavery in the territories had erupted during the Mexican–American War. Many Southerners sought to expand slavery to the newly-acquired lands and many Northerners, wary of economic competition with slave owners in the West, opposed any such expansion. The new state of Texas’ claim to all former Mexican territory north and east of the Rio Grande, including areas that had never been effectively controlled, further complicated the debate. These issues prevented the passage of acts to create organized territorial governments for the land acquired during the recent war – lands that included the present-day states of California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and western Colorado.

In early 1850, with the assistance of Democrat Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, Whig Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky had proposed a package of bills that would settle the more important issues before Congress. His proposals included:

*The cession by Texas of some of its northern and western territorial claims in return for debt relief
* The establishment of New Mexico and Utah territories
*Admission of California as a free state
*A ban on the importation of slaves into the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) for sale
*A tougher fugitive slave law

Clay had originally favored voting on each of his proposals separately. However, Democrat Senator Henry S. Foote of Mississippi convinced him to combine the proposals regarding California’s admission and the disposition of Texas’s borders into one bill. Both Clay and Foote hoped this combination of measures would convince congressmen from both North and South to support the overall package of laws even if they objected to specific provisions.

Clay’s proposal had attracted the support of some Northern Democrats and Southern Whigs like Douglas and Vice-President Millard Fillmore. But the proposal lacked the backing necessary to win passage. President Zachary Taylor opposed the proposal and wanted both California and New Mexico to be admitted as free states. Democrat Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina and some other Southern leaders argued that the compromise was biased against the South because it would lead to the creation of new free states. Not long after expressing his opposition to the proposal, Calhoun died at the end of March. Northern politicians like Whig Senator William H. Seward of New York opposed the pro-slavery elements of the Compromise, especially a new fugitive slave law. During a speech on the Senate floor on March 11, 1850, Seward invoked a “higher law than the Constitution” argument to express his opposition against Clay’s proposals.

The debate over Clay’s proposal led to verbal sparring between Vice-President Fillmore and Democrat Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri (who opposed the pro-slavery elements of the proposal) over Texas’s borders. During the pair’s debate, Senator Foote drew a pistol on Benton. In early June, nine slaveholding Southern states sent delegates to the Nashville Convention to determine their course of action if the compromise passed. Some delegates preached secession, while the moderates ruled and proposed a series of compromises that included extending the Missouri Compromise of 1820’s dividing line to the Pacific Coast. The situation took a major turn when President Taylor suddenly died on July 9, 1850. His death led Fillmore to become the 13th President of the United States and the end of presidential opposition to the proposals.

The individual proposals were initially introduced as one “omnibus” bill. Despite Clay’s efforts, the bill failed to pass during a crucial vote on July 31, 1850. It was opposed by southern Democrats and by northern Whigs. Clay announced his intention to pass each part of the bill on the Senate floor the following day. However, the 73-year-old Clay became physically exhausted from the effects of tuberculosis, which would eventually kill him nearly two years later. After Senator Clay left the Senate to recuperate in Newport, Rhode Island; Senator Stephen A. Douglas took the lead in attempting to pass Clay’s proposals through the Senate.

Instead of presenting Clay’s proposals as one bill, Douglas ensured that the proposals were presented as separate bills:

*The Fillmore Administration and the Senate would deny Texas’s claims to New Mexico, asserting that the United States had promised to protect the territorial integrity of New Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. However, the compromise would allow the United States to assume Texas’s debts and set the state’s northern border at the 36° 30′ parallel north (the Missouri Compromise line) and much of its western border followed the 103rd meridian.

*California would be admitted as a free state on September 9, 1850.

*The Territories of New Mexico and Utah would be organized under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

*The nation’s capital, Washington D.C., would cease to become a major center for the domestic slave trade. However, slavery would continue to exist within its borders. Although all Southern politicians opposed this proposal, they were eventually outvoted.

*A new fugitive slave law would be created in the form of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Enacted on September 8, 1850; this new law would enforce Federal judicial officials in all states and Federal territories, including those states and territories in which slavery was prohibited, to assist with the return of escaped slaves to their masters from those states and territories that permitted slavery. Anyone who refused to assist in the capture of fugitive slaves or assisted a fugitive would be liable to a steep fine or imprisonment.

By September 1850, both the United States Senate and House of Representatives managed to form an agreement over all major issues and voted for the passage of the new Compromise of 1850. President Fillmore signed four of the proposals, with the exception of the Fugitive Slave Act. He signed that into law after Attorney General John J. Crittenden assured him that the law was constitutional. Many historians argue that the Compromise of 1850 had played a major role in postponing the American Civil War by at least a decade. However, one element of the new compromise – the establishment of the Fugitive Slave Act – led to legal abuses regarding the pursuit of fugitive slaves and the safety of free blacks throughout the country. The new law also led to growing support of the abolition movement and the re-opening of the slavery issue. This led to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, a law drafted by Stephen Douglas that would help inflame the slavery issue until the eve of the U.S. Civil War.

TIME MACHINE: Compromise of 1850

TIME MACHINE: COMPROMISE OF 1850

One hundred and seventy years ago marked the passage of the controversial document, the Compromise of 1850. The document was a package of five separate bills passed by the United States Congress in September 1850. These bills were used to defuse a political confrontation between slave and free states on the status of territories acquired after the Mexican–American War.

A new debate over slavery in the territories had erupted during the Mexican–American War. Many Southerners sought to expand slavery to the newly-acquired lands and many Northerners, wary of economic competition with slave owners in the West, opposed any such expansion. The new state of Texas’ claim to all former Mexican territory north and east of the Rio Grande, including areas that had never been effectively controlled, further complicated the debate. These issues prevented the passage of acts to create organized territorial governments for the land acquired during the recent war – lands that included the present-day states of California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and western Colorado.

In early 1850, with the assistance of Democrat Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, Whig Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky had proposed a package of bills that would settle the more important issues before Congress. His proposals included:

*The cession by Texas of some of its northern and western territorial claims in return for debt relief
* The establishment of New Mexico and Utah territories
*Admission of California as a free state
*A ban on the importation of slaves into the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) for sale
*A tougher fugitive slave law

Clay had originally favored voting on each of his proposals separately. However, Democrat Senator Henry S. Foote of Mississippi convinced him to combine the proposals regarding California’s admission and the disposition of Texas’s borders into one bill. Both Clay and Foote hoped this combination of measures would convince congressmen from both North and South to support the overall package of laws even if they objected to specific provisions.

Clay’s proposal had attracted the support of some Northern Democrats and Southern Whigs like Douglas and Vice-President Millard Fillmore. But the proposal lacked the backing necessary to win passage. President Zachary Taylor opposed the proposal and wanted both California and New Mexico to be admitted as free states. Democrat Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina and some other Southern leaders argued that the compromise was biased against the South because it would lead to the creation of new free states. Not long after expressing his opposition to the proposal, Calhoun died at the end of March. Northern politicians like Whig Senator William H. Seward of New York opposed the pro-slavery elements of the Compromise, especially a new fugitive slave law. During a speech on the Senate floor on March 11, 1850, Seward invoked a “higher law than the Constitution” argument to express his opposition against Clay’s proposals.

The debate over Clay’s proposal led to verbal sparring between Vice-President Fillmore and Democrat Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri (who opposed the pro-slavery elements of the proposal) over Texas’s borders. During the pair’s debate, Senator Foote drew a pistol on Benton. In early June, nine slaveholding Southern states sent delegates to the Nashville Convention to determine their course of action if the compromise passed. Some delegates preached secession, while the moderates ruled and proposed a series of compromises that included extending the Missouri Compromise of 1820’s dividing line to the Pacific Coast. The situation took a major turn when President Taylor suddenly died on July 9, 1850. His death led Fillmore to become the 13th President of the United States and the end of presidential opposition to the proposals.

The individual proposals were initially introduced as one “omnibus” bill. Despite Clay’s efforts, the bill failed to pass during a crucial vote on July 31, 1850. It was opposed by southern Democrats and by northern Whigs. Clay announced his intention to pass each part of the bill on the Senate floor the following day. However, the 73-year-old Clay became physically exhausted from the effects of tuberculosis, which would eventually kill him nearly two years later. After Senator Clay left the Senate to recuperate in Newport, Rhode Island; Senator Stephen A. Douglas took the lead in attempting to pass Clay’s proposals through the Senate.

Instead of presenting Clay’s proposals as one bill, Douglas ensured that the proposals were presented as separate bills:

*The Fillmore Administration and the Senate would deny Texas’s claims to New Mexico, asserting that the United States had promised to protect the territorial integrity of New Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. However, the compromise would allow the United States to assume Texas’s debts and set the state’s northern border at the 36° 30′ parallel north (the Missouri Compromise line) and much of its western border followed the 103rd meridian.

*California would be admitted as a free state on September 9, 1850.

*The Territories of New Mexico and Utah would be organized under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

*The nation’s capital, Washington D.C., would cease to become a major center for the domestic slave trade. However, slavery would continue to exist within its borders. Although all Southern politicians opposed this proposal, they were eventually outvoted.

*A new fugitive slave law would be created in the form of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Enacted on September 8, 1850; this new law would enforce Federal judicial officials in all states and Federal territories, including those states and territories in which slavery was prohibited, to assist with the return of escaped slaves to their masters from those states and territories that permitted slavery. Anyone who refused to assist in the capture of fugitive slaves or assisted a fugitive would be liable to a steep fine or imprisonment.

By September 1850, both the United States Senate and House of Representatives managed to form an agreement over all major issues and voted for the passage of the new Compromise of 1850. President Fillmore signed four of the proposals, with the exception of the Fugitive Slave Act. He signed that into law after Attorney General John J. Crittenden assured him that the law was constitutional. Many historians argue that the Compromise of 1850 had played a major role in postponing the American Civil War by at least a decade. However, one element of the new compromise – the establishment of the Fugitive Slave Act – led to legal abuses regarding the pursuit of fugitive slaves and the safety of free blacks throughout the country. The new law also led to growing support of the abolition movement and the re-opening of the slavery issue. This led to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, a law drafted by Stephen Douglas that would help inflame the slavery issue until the eve of the U.S. Civil War.

1840s Costumes in Movies and Television

Below are images of fashion from the decade of the 1840s, found in movies and television productions over the years:

1840s COSTUMES IN MOVIES AND TELEVISION

“Camille” (1936)

image

“All This and Heaven Too” (1940)

image

“The Manions of America” (1981)

image

“North and South: Book I” (1985)

image

“Washington Square” (1997)

image

“The Young Victoria” (2009)

image

“Return to Cranford” (2009)

image

“Jane Eyre” (2009)

EL DORADO WEST [PG] – Chapter Twelve

The following is Chapter Twelve of my story about a pair of free black siblings making the journey to California in 1849: 

Chapter Twelve – On the Trail

May 12, 1849
Tension has permeated the wagon company since Marcus Cross nearly fell into the Kanzas River, two days ago. Mr. Anderson has been trying to put an end to their feud by offering his apologies since the noon break, yesterday. But the Cross cousins maintained their distance. As far as they were concerned, the Louisiana emigrant had been careless. 

The Delaware cousins’ hostile silence finally cracked during supper, today. After Marcus Cross rebuked another one of Mr. Anderson’s apologies, the latter turned away, mumbling complaints about ”bad” manners. It turned out to be the last straw for the Delaware native. Mr. Cross grabbed Mr. Anderson by the lapels of the his coat and punched him in the jaw. Intervention by Mr. John Cross, Mr. James and Mr. Wendell prevented the younger Cross cousin from committing further assault.

“I want that bastard hanged!” Mr. Anderson had cried. “That man tried to kill me!” His cries came to naught, for most of the company did not want to get involved in the feud between and the Cross cousins – even if most of them sympathized with the Delaware men.

Whatever feelings most of the company possessed, everyone’s main concern seemed to be that the two feuding men should remain apart. According to Mr. James, there was nothing more destructive to a wagon train than dissention among the emigrants. While the Cross cousins traveled behind the Robbins wagon, Mr. Anderson and his companions traveled at the rear.

May 18, 1849
Nearly two weeks had passed since our departure from Westport. By this time, a daily pattern had emerged for our trek west. The company usually started the day around five in the morning. While a handful of men tended to the stock, other emigrants – both men and women – gathered wood and water for breakfast. Mr. James refuses to allow any of the women to wander off alone. The women usually finished preparing breakfast by six-thirty, which was eaten by seven o’clock. After the company hitched up the wagons, another day’s journey would commence.

Around noon, the wagon train usually formed a circle to guard against marauding Indians (which we have yet to encounter) and prevent the stock from wandering. Only water was usually gathered for the midday meals. Mr. James had suggested we eat cold dinners around this time of the day and save the next hot meal for suppers. The noon halt usually lasted an hour before we set out on the road again.

The second half of a day’s journey usually ended around six o’clock. Mr. James informed us that when the days began to get shorter by September, the company’s evening halt would begin an hour earlier. September? That is four months away. How long will it take us to reach California?

Again, the men gathered water and wood. The women prepared the meals and we all ate supper. It was usually around this time when Mr. James would entertain us with one of his tales about the West or the Palmer brothers would engage in their outrageous sense of humor. One of our Tennesseeans, the younger Mr. Goodwin, seemed slightly perplexed by the New Englanders’ humor.

“What’s wrong with our humor?” Warren Palmer demanded in a more sober mood.

Jonas Goodwin admitted that he found them entertaining. “It’s just that I always thought you Yankees were a serious lot. You know – religious and penny pinching. With no sense of humor.”

Both Palmers broke into laughter. “Ah, the very image of Brother Jonathan himself,” Richard Palmer said with a twinkle in his eyes. “I reckon there are a good number of such men in our part of the country. Since traveling cross country, I’ve noticed that they seemed to be all over. Maybe even in Tennessee?”

The elder Mr. Goodwin spoke up in defense of his son and state. “Now, I would not exactly say that, sir. True, we have a lot of God fearing folk in Tennessee. But I don’t know about penny pinchers.”

“I’m from Kentucky,” Mr. Robbins said. “And I have certainly encountered a good number of Brother Jonathan types there. And in Virginia. I’ll tell you what. How many of you have encountered these Brother Jonathan types back home? With no sense of humor?”

Nearly everyone raised their hands, save the Goodwins and Mr. Anderson. The latter shot warning looks at his female companions. But they refused to be intimidated and raised their hands. “This is nonsense!” The younger Mr. Goodwin cried out. “But all of y’all are Yankees!”

Elias Wendell revealed that he was from Maryland. The Crosses mentioned that Delaware was a border state. Each of Mr. Anderson’s female companions stated that their birthplaces were Augusta, Georgia and Baton Rouge, Louisiana respectively. Mr. James added, “Although I’ve been living in Ohio these past two decades, I’m originally from North Carolina. Just goes to show you, Mr. Goodwin, it don’t do to judge a book by its cover. A fine old adage to follow, if you ask me.”

Unable to support his earlier belief, young Mr. Goodwin acknowledged defeat . . . with good grace, I might add. However, Mr. Anderson seemed annoyed by the whole matter. Some people simply do not want to learn.

End of Chapter Twelve

EL DORADO WEST [PG] – Chapter Eleven

The following is Chapter Eleven of my story about a pair of free black siblings making the journey to California in 1849: 

Chapter Eleven – Crossing the River

May 10, 1849
The wagon company came upon the Kanzas River. Mr. James took one look at the body of water and decided that our wagons would not be able to ford it. I could see why. The clear water seemed to gush from a cluster of rocks at a breakneck speed. And it flowed above the banks. Spring flood.

Mr. Robbins suggested that we wait for the river’s current to die down. But Mr. James naysayed the notion. “There’s no telling how long it would take for the water to go down. And we can’t afford to wait.” In other words – the company had to find a way to ferry across the river.

In the end, we did it with the help of a band of Indians that operated a ferry service. We came across their landing, just a little upriver. According to Mr. Wendell, they were Osage. “They came here nearly two hundred years ago from the Ohio Valley.” We stood near the riverbank, while we watched two Osage braves ferry the Robbins and Palmer wagons across the river on a flat, wooden raft. I asked about the other Indians, who also lived in this region. “Oh, you mean the Kansa and the Pawnee? They’ve been pushed a little further west. To the Platte River.”

I saw that the Osage were a handsome, bronze-skinned bunch whose clothes were decorated with colorful beads, cloths and feathers. They seemed to have established a brisk business as ferrymen and traders. For us emigrants, they were our last chance to purchase goods, until Fort Laramie – 600 miles from here. To our dismay, we discovered that the Osage charged steep prices. For all services.

“This is downright robbery,” Ben complained. “Why doesn’t the Army do something about them?” Typical Ben. Grumpy as usual. A dark suspicion began to enter in the back of my mind that he might be harboring regrets about this journey. What had he expected? A picnic on the Plains?

When our turn came to cross the Kanzas River, Ben parked our wagon between two others – the one belonging to our fellow emigrants from Indiana and the wagon belonging to the Gibson family – on what looked like a flimsy piece of wood. This was our raft? This was going to carry three wagons across the river?

The river crossing turned out to be the longest twenty minutes I have ever experienced. My anxiety increased when the water began to rise above the raft in the middle of the river. Just as I had feared, three wagons on one raft was turning out to be one wagon too many. Yet, before I could catch my breath again, we had finally reached the other side.

Mrs. Robbins commented on my expression. She declared that I looked ”a little drawn in the gills”. When I told her about the water rising above the raft, she revealed that the same had happened during her crossing. “Them Injuns sure know how to make a sturdy raft with a pile of flimsy sticks.”

Those of us who were safely on the river’s north bank, watched the other crossings. It was not long before it was time for the Crosses and our flashy New Orleans friends to cross the river. Everything seemed to proceed smoothly . . . until Mr. Wendell cried out loud. The lines holding Mr. Anderson’s wagon had loosened.

The river’s current surged upward, causing the raft to lurch. Because it had been loosely tied, the Anderson wagon slowly began to slide . . . toward the Crosses’ wagon. Fortunately, the latter wagon had been firmly secured, or both wagons would have slipped into the river. Despite this, a tragedy nearly occurred. Marcus Cross, a chestnut-haired fellow with a long, solemn face, had been sitting on the wagon seat, when Mr. Anderson’s wagon had begun to slide toward him. When the two wagons collided, Mr. Cross fell from his wagon seat and toward the river. His cousin grabbed him in time to prevent him from falling into the fast-moving river. A very close call.

After the raft completed its crossing, the two wagons rolled onto the north bank. Marcus Cross jumped from his wagon seat and angrily accosted Mr. Anderson for failing to secure his wagon. It was not before the two men became engaged in a fist fight. Thankfully, Mr. Robbins and Mr. Gibson pulled the two men apart. Judging by the looks the two men exchanged during the rest of the day, I fear that a feud has commenced between the Crosses and Mr. Anderson.

End of Chapter Eleven