Was It More Likely to Rain on Sundays?

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, November 16, 1913: So disappointing, I wanted to wear my new hat to church this afternoon, but it was raining, and so I wore my old faithful brown hat that the water can’t hurt. I have a cold now for a change. I cough, sneeze, and pinch my nose.

Precipitation.Williamsport.1Data source: Climate Zone

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma—

It’s too bad that you couldn’t wear your new black velvet hat that was trimmed with a rose ribbon and pink velvet flowers.

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It seems like there have been a lot of diary entries where Grandma wrote that it rained on a Sunday. Was it more likely to rain on Sundays than on other days of the week?

Grandma’s wrote that it rained on Sunday, September 21, 1913 and Sunday, October 19, 1913. So it rained about one Sunday a month during Fall, 1913. In other words, it rained one Sunday out of every four or five.

I then found some current climate data for the nearby town on Williamsport PA on the Climate Zone website—and was surprised to discover that in a typical year that there is 0.01 inch or more of precipitation on 10 days in September, 10 days in October, and 12 days in November.

(It really doesn’t seem like it rains on 1 out of every 3 days when I’m in Pennsylvania, but maybe I’d barely notice the rain on days when there was just a little bit and it fell in the middle of the night.)

Conclusion—Assuming the number of days with precipitation has been about the same across the last hundred years and that Grandma mentioned every Sunday when it rained, it looks like it was less likely to rain on  Sundays than on other days of the week during  Fall, 1913.

Cleaned Up After Party

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, November 1, 1913:  Not much sleep came to my eyes this morning. Ma got me up at half past four to dry the dishes left from the party. I tell you it was quite a mess, but it was accomplished at last.

Didn’t do much of anything as I was too much done up and by good luck it happened that there wasn’t much to do. Did feel lonesome after all the festivity here last night.DSC08353

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

If I could get in a time machine, I’d go back and reprimand Grandma’s mother:

I’d angrily scream, “What kind of mother are you? How dare you wake your daughter up at 4:30? The Halloween party made her the happiest she’s been in weeks—let her sleep and bask in the memories for a few hours.

But. . .  maybe I’m being too hard on Grandma’s mother.

I told my daughter what I was going to write. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Mothers are just like that. You’d have been mad if I’d left the house a mess after a party. You probably won’t have woken up at 4:30, so you won’t have known it was a mess until later, but you’d have made me clean it up.”

What a Difference a Year Makes

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, September 30, 1913:  These days have come and gone. They ground me working on my job.

DSC04610

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma–

You work so hard on the farm—husking corn, digging potatoes, rolling fields in preparation for planting wheat—the list could go on and on.

I know that your life working on the family farm is fairly typical of the lives of many young unmarried women a hundred years ago. . . so I assume that your life just feels normal to you.

But . . .sometimes I wonder if your current jobs and tasks are fully utilizing your knowledge and skills.

Exactly one year before you wrote this entry, you were a high school senior  and wrote:

Our class had a meeting this evening after school. I had the misfortune to be elected secretary. But better, or rather it suits me better to have been that, than president or treasurer would have suited me.

September 30, 1912

You always write in such a matter of fact way.  I hope you feel good about what you are doing—and that you think that your work suits you well.

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Russian Wheat Production a Hundred Years Ago

 18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, September 19, 1913:  

September 16 – 17 – 18 – 19:  Nothing much of importance happened during these days. I have to help Pa some and get put at rolling for one thing. Of course I had my mishaps even to going off of the roller. That work is all done by this time.

Photo Caption: An American Reaper in a Russian Wheat Field (Source: The Book of Wheat by Peter Tracy Donglinger

Photo Caption: An American Reaper in a Russian Wheat Field.Source: The Book of Wheat (1908)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

This was the fourth of four days where Grandma wrote a single diary entry. Three days ago I described how Grandma rolled the fields in preparation for planting fall wheat. And, two days ago and yesterday, I shared  pictures of large and small wheat farms from a hundred-year-old book.

The 1908 book, The Book of Wheat  by Peter Tracy Dondlinger, had lots of interesting information. One part I really enjoyed was the description of wheat production in several other countries.

I’m going to share what the book said about Russia. Within the larger historical context it is fascinating to read something about Russia that was written in the years prior to the Russian Revolution and the formation of the Soviet Union.

Russian Wheat Production

Viewed solely from the point of view of its natural resources and economic aspects, Russia is the United States of Europe. It has immense undeveloped areas that would form ideal wheat lands, lands very similar to those which constitute the wheat belt of the United States.

The similarity between Russia and the United States in the natural resources of the wheat growing regions is quite equaled by the dissimilarity of political practice, social theory and economic condition.  The Russian peasantry had had neither means nor opportunity to attain a higher plane of life.

The poor system of land ownership and the antiquated methods of agriculture made Russian wheat a dear wheat in spite of cheap labor and a low standard of living. The future possibilities of Russian wheat production depend upon the social, economic and educational progress of Russia.

There are symptoms of improvement in this direction. The extension of peasant land ownership is improving economic conditions. It seems that political and social conditions are at last changing and popular education is growing. In agriculture, better machinery is being introduced, and the crops are being rotated.

The Book of Wheat (1908)

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Machinery Used to Plant Wheat on Small Farms a Hundred Years Ago

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday,  September 19, 1913:  

September 16 – 17 – 18 – 19:  Nothing much of importance happened during these days. I have to help Pa some and get put at rolling for one thing. Of course I had my mishaps even to going off of the roller. That work is all done by this time.

wheat.planting

The Book of Wheat (1908) by Peter Tracy Dondlinger

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

This was the third of four days where Grandma wrote a single diary entry. Two days ago I described how Grandma rolled the fields in preparation for planting fall wheat. And, yesterday I shared pictures that showed the huge “modern” equipment used to harvest wheat on immense farms in the Midwest a hundred years ago.

The machinery used to plant and harvest wheat was very different on small farms in Pennsylvania like the one Grandma lived on.  Today I’m sharing several additional pictures from the same book—but this group of pictures shows how wheat was raised on small farms a hundred years ago.

wheat.harvest

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Are Big Farms or Small Farms Better? The Case of the Bonanza Farms

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, September 17, 1913:  

September 16 – 17 – 18 – 19:  Nothing much of importance happened during these days. I have to help Pa some and get put at rolling for one thing. Of course I had my mishaps even to going off of the roller. That work is all done by this time.

Wheat.Bonanza.Harvester

The Book of Wheat (1908) by Peter Tracy Dondlinger

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

This was the second of four days where Grandma wrote a single diary entry. Yesterday I described how Grandma rolled the fields in preparation for planting winter wheat. Since Grandma didn’t write anything specific for this date, I’m going to share something I learned when I was doing research for this series of posts that surprised me.

Did you know that there were some huge, highly-mechanized, wheat farms in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s?

There were 91 large “Bonanza Farms” ranging in size from 3,000 to more than 30,000 acres in North Dakota and Minnesota.

In 1864 the US government gave a group of investors millions of acres of land to finance the building of the Northern Pacific Railroad from Minnesota to the west coast. During the Panic of 1873, the investors got into financial difficulty and needed to raise funds to complete building the railroad so they let stockholders buy large tracts of land in the Red River Valley at low rates.

wheat.large.harvester

The farms had professional managers and migrant labor did much of the work. (During the winter months many of the farm laborers worked in logging camps in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.)

By the early 1900s wheat prices were low, labor costs were rising, and the Bonanza Farms weren’t very profitable.

There also was a lot of concern that the Bonanza Farms weren’t good stewards of the land. For example, the opening paragraph in a bulletin published by the US Government in 1908 said:

Experience has shown that when excessively large companies farm great tracts of land the tendency is to exploit the land for the greatest immediate profit at the expense of the permanent value of the soil. Proper soil-cultural methods are not observed: rotations for the preservation of soil fertility are neglected; the main crop, wheat, is grown continuously, and the seed is allowed to degenerate through careless methods. Undoubtedly there are exceptions to this rule. It is not the writer’s wish to intimate that rational dry farming is impossible when carried on by large companies, but the general rule has been as stated here. It is evident that the homesteader, having in mind the value of his home and the welfare of his posterity, is more likely to perpetuate and increase the value of his land.

Dry-land Grains (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry, Circular No. 12, 1908)

These concerns led, in part, to changes in tax codes that discriminated against Bonanza Farms which made them even less profitable.

At the same time more people wanted to farm in the upper Midwest and the land was becoming more valuable, so many of the Bonanza Farms were divided into smaller plots and sold to family farmers.

Here’s links to several sites that have additional information about Bonanza Farms:

Bonanza Farming (Encyclopedia of the Great Plains)

The Bonanza Farms of North Dakota (Teaching with Historic Places, National Park Service)

The Bagg Bonanza Farm

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Cakewalk Games at Festivals

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, August 23, 1913:  Ruth and I went to a festival up at McEwensville this evening.

DSC04287The festival probably was held in the small park next to the McEwensville Community Hall.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What fun! I love small town festivals. There’s so much excitement and energy—good friends, great food, fun exhibits, and fun games.

I bet that Grandma and her sister Ruth played the Cakewalk game.  It used to be a popular fund-raiser game at festivals, but I haven’t seen it in years.

People would donate homemade cakes to be used as game prizes.

The game is kind of like musical chairs. Numbered squares are laid out on a circular path. Music is played while the participants walk around the path. The music then stops, and a number is called out. The individual standing on the square with that number wins a cake.

Tickets are sold to participants. The number of squares in the path equals to the number of tickets sold. For example there might be 20 squares. The game is run multiple times until all the cakes are gone—with 20 people participating in each game.

Layered_cake_with_cream

Source: Wikimedia Commons

An aside–when I was preparing this post I googled the term cakewalk  and was surprised to discover that the game that I remember isn’t what the word generally means.  Cakewalk had it originals on slave  plantations in the South in the 1800s. According to The Free Dictionary cakewalk is “A 19th-century public entertainment among African Americans in which walkers performing the most accomplished or amusing steps won cakes as prizes.”

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