Monday, November 28, 2022

Digging up veggie varieties of past

old photo of man in kitchen garden
Early settlers knew the value of kitchen
gardens, as this photo from Florida's state
archives shows.
A head of iceberg lettuce costs $2.79 to $4 or more right now. Yikes. Time to grow my own like the pioneers did.

Fall and winter in Florida are prime growing seasons for many vegetables, including lettuce. Head lettuce can be tricky in home gardens, but leafy kinds grow really well. 

Large kitchen gardens were common sights in early Florida homesteads. I used to have a fair-sized vegetable garden, about 8 feet by 10 feet. Now I have container gardens because arthritis dictates my moves.

You can do a lot with containers. My husband's Earth box of scallions is looking good. Some of my buttercrunch and romaine lettuces, grown from transplants, have already shown up on the dinner table. Seedlings of leaf and romaine lettuces, radishes and carrots have sprouted and are ready for transplanting. Sounds like a haul, but it isn't and doesn't require a lot of space or time.

Still, I can run to the supermarket if I have a crop failure. Vegetable gardening wasn't a hobby for pioneer Floridians. Healthful survival often depended on what could be procured by a settler's own hand. Of course stores stocked and sold food. Many settlers relied on stores only for staples they couldn't produce themselves, such as flour, coffee and tea. 

I've always wondered what varieties of vegetables Floridians grew in the 1800s and early 1900s. Among the many things lost to the past are numerous distinctive vegetable varieties. Some modern companies and organizations specialize in heirloom seed stocks, thankfully. But many regional varieties are long gone.

Drawing of a Bermuda onion
Bermuda onions are
an old favorite. This
drawing is from the
1885 garden book.
That's sad, because regional varieties are known for having adapted to their locations over generations of growth. These sturdy plants didn't require coddling and they produced good yields. 

Over the years, I've grown some old-timey varieties with varying degrees of success. It's always fun to experiment with them. I like searching out old garden guides to see what types of vegetables were recommended for Florida. One gold-mine book was published in 1885. Gardening in Florida, A Treatise on the Vegetables and Tropical Products of Florida, was written by J.N Whitner, A.M. He was a professor of agriculture at Florida Agricultural College in Lake City in north Florida. 

Professor Whitner gave cultivation instructions for numerous vegetables and suggested certain varieties of each. Here are his choices for Florida gardeners in 1885:

  • Asparagus - Colossal, Defiance
  • Bush Beans - Early Mohawk, Golden Wax, Black Wax, Red and White Valentine, Long Yellow Six weeks
  • Pole Beans - Giant Wax, Dreer's Improved Lima
  • Beet - for the table: Egyptian Turnip, Early Blood Turnip, Early Yellow Turnip, Pine Apple; for feeding stock: Mangel Wurzel, Long Red, Long Yellow Mangel Wurzel
  • Borecole (known today as Kale) - Dwarf German Greens, Green Curled Scotch, Purple Borecole
  • Broccoli - White Cape, Purple Cape, Early Walcheren
  • Cabbage - Early Jersey Wakefield, Early Winningstadt, Fottler's Improved Early Brunswick, Early Giant Bleichfield, Flat Dutch, Henderson's Early Summer, Improved American Savoy
  • Carrots - Half Long Red, Danvers, Long Orange Improved
  • Cauliflower - Early Snowball, Extra Early Paris, Extra Early Dwarf Erfurt
  • Celery - Incomparable Dwarf White, Incomparable Dwarf Crimson, Boston Market, Golden Heart, White Plumed
  • Corn - Egyptian Sweet, Sewell's Evergreen, Mammoth Sugar, Tuscarora
  • Cucumber - Improved White Spine, Green Prolific, Long Green
  • Eggplant - New York Improved, Black Pekin, Scarlet Fruited, White Fruited
  • Lettuce - Green Fringed, Black Seeded Simpson, All the Year Round
  • Okra - Giant, Dwarf
  • Onion - Giant Rocca, New Queen, New Neapolitan Marzajola, Bermuda (the Bermuda was so popular it had its own separate write-up)
  • Parsnip - Hollow Crown
  • Parsley - Carter's Fern Leaved, Fine Triple Curled, Myatt's Garnishing
  • Pea (green pea not field pea) - Ferry's First and Best, Bliss' American Wonder, McLean's Little Gem, Carter's Little Wonder, Prize-Taker Green Marrow, Fill Basket, Veitch's Perfection, Champion of England, Early Dwarf Wrinkled
  • Radish - Long Scarlet Short Top, Scarlet Turnip, White Tipped Scarlet Turnip, Yellow Summer Turnip
  • Spinach - Improved Round Leaved
  • Squash - Yellow and White Bush Scalloped Squash, Boston Marrow, Hubbard
  • Tomato - Acme, Hathaway's Excelsior, Golden Trophy
  • Turnip - Early White Dutch, Early Red Top Dutch, White Globe
Some of those names are mouthfuls. I was surprised at the number of pea selections and mystified by the minimal tomato choices. Tomatoes usually take up pages in modern vegetable seed catalogs. I was happy to see Black Seeded Simpson among the lettuce options. That variety is part of my current crop of lettuce seedlings because it's a proven winner. It's neat that it's been grown in the state for over 125 years.

I recognized the Danvers carrot and Snowball cauliflower because the varieties are still around and I've grown them in the past. I once tried Sewell's Evergreen corn as an experiment. It wasn't very sweet at all. Most of the other heirloom variety names are mysteries to me.

I may envy these past gardeners the seed choices lost to us today. But other aspects of gardening in Florida are best left in the past. The book's section on fertilizers offers specifics on how to dissolve bones to create bone meal for working into the soil. It was a days-long process. Just reading about it made me tired. And glad a bag of balanced organic fertilizer is sitting on the garden shelf in my garage. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Tracing birth of Key Lime Pie

Slice of Key Lime Pie
Key Lime Pie photo by Marc Averette
from Wikimedia Commons
Key Lime Pie is pretty much the Florida dessert. Of course it's fitting that the pie's provenance traces to Key West. I mean, where else? Of a less flippant note is the story behind its creation.

Legend says a woman named Aunt Sally created the now-famous pie recipe in the late 1800s in what is today the historic Amsterdam-Curry Mansion Inn. Older versions of the story suggest that Sally was a cook who worked for the Curry family that owned the property at the time.

When I first heard the story, I wondered if Aunt Sally was a woman of color. Kitchen jobs in that place and time were almost always filled by women of color. They didn't have many employment options from which to choose. Unless they ran their own business, they were usually pushed into cook, maid, nanny and other domestic jobs.

Also, in the post-Civil War South, mature woman of color were often called Aunt or Auntie. I thought it sad no one knew the full name of the woman who created such an amazing pie. It seemed insulting to just credit it to Aunt Sally.

But we do know Aunt Sally's full name, or at least we think we do. She wasn't an employee. She was a member of the Curry family.

She dreamed up the delicious dessert in the Caroline Street home built in the 1860s by patriarch William Curry. The structure predates the current Amsterdam-Curry Mansion Inn on the same site. The current mansion was built in 1901 by William's son Milton, according to the inn's website.

The online history says Milton demolished everything except the cookhouse in 1901. Today, the only parts of that once-saved structure to remain "are the brick chimney and tiled hearth that once contained the wood-burning stove." One can imagine Aunt Sally standing on that spot and perfecting her pie recipe.

So who was she? The best theory is that she was Sarah Jane Lowe Curry, wife of one of William Curry's other sons, Charles. 

A 2019 article in the Keys Weekly by David Sloan dug into the background. David unearthed census records and more in his quest to find a cook named Sally in late 19th and early 20th century Key West. He came up empty. 

His father, a genealogist, picked up the trail and found Sarah Jane. She and her husband lived next door to the William Curry/Milton Curry house. Sarah Jane was white and is believed to have been Bahamian. She was affectionately known as Aunt Sally by the numerous Curry nieces and nephews. It was a large extended family. 

I lean toward this story rather than the one put forth in 2018 by an author who claimed Key Westians did little but improve a Borden company recipe for a condensed-milk citrus pie. David Sloan is the author of the Key West Key Lime Cookbook. He ought to know.

So there you have it. An unproven but plausible story about the birth of Key Lime Pie. Now you need a recipe to go with it. I have an old -- 30 years? more? - recipe sheet from what was then known as The Curry Mansion Inn. The paper is old enough to contain the early version of the legend. The recipe, however, remains timeless. 


4 eggs, separated

1/2 cup key lime juice

14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1/3 cup sugar

Graham cracker crust in 8-inch pie pan

Beat egg yolks until light and thick. Blend in lime juice, then milk, stirring until mixture thickens. Pour mixture into pie shell. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff. Gradually beat in sugar, beating until glossy peaks form. Spread egg whites over surface of pie to edge of crust. Bake at 350 degrees F. until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Chill before serving.

I know, meringue. It's a lot of work. That's the traditional recipe, though. If you don't like that version, there are lots of other ones floating around online. Just be sure to always, always, always make Key Lime Pie with the juice of the small, round, greenish-yellow key limes, never ever with those bright green limes usually seen in supermarkets. If you're going through the trouble to make the pie, you want the real thing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Cheap fabric and oversized sleeves

screengrab of 2 fashion pages from 1896 Sears catalog
The seamstress heroine of my 2nd novel
was too fashionable to fall for this trend
I spent so much time paging through an online 
1896 Sears Roebuck catalog that I gathered enough for two blog posts.

Last month, we looked at the catalog's grocery section. Today I'm focused on the fabric department.

Both posts connect to how the characters in my Persimmon Hollow novels would have been familiar with Sears catalogs. I've just reprinted Books 1 and 2 with a new publisher and new covers that fit the theme of Book 3's cover. 

The novels are set in the late 1800s. Fast fashion as we know it today didn't exist in 1896 pioneer Florida. Yes, a person could buy ready-to-wear clothing in stores and from catalogs. But each item was purchased with an eye toward longevity. Most women and probably a lot of men knew how to sew and make garments. They spent quite a bit of time doing so. Far more than today. 

The heroine of my second novel is a seamstress named Josefa. She perfects her craft through an apprenticeship with the town dressmaker. Any author will tell you their characters seem like real people to them. I'm no exception. I can imagine Josefa poring over the fabric selections of the Sears catalog.

The section wasn't named "Fabric." No, it was the Dress Goods Department. It started on page 136, right after a page selling cheese box machines and creamery butter tubs.

Dress Goods depicted “all the newest and choicest products of foreign and domestic looms for the fall and winter season of 1897.” That wasn't all. There also was material touted as year-round fabric and a promise that “all the popular new up-to-date fancy brocades, Jacquards, two toned effects” were always in stock in great variety.

The prices almost made me swoon. A two-color diamond pattern brocade sold for 11 cents a yard. A wool serge was 25 cents yard and scotch wool plaid 29 cents.

Silk was an uptown price, hovering at 98 cents a yard, while soft, fleecy flannel went for 6 and 3/4 cents a yard. If you wanted basic, unbleached cotton flannel, you could have it for 4 cents a yard. Gingham was slightly more expensive: 4 and 1/2 cents a yard. Percales were double that price, or 9 cents a yard.Don't ask me how they figured change when dealing with half- and quarter-cent pricing.

My astonishment grew as I reached the pages that advertised quilts. One seven-pound bed quilt measured 72x78 inches. It was made of twilled sateen, red lining and carded cotton fill and it featured something called "fancy quilting." The price was...are you ready...$1.50. I searched to discover the equivalent of that price in purchasing power today. The result: $52.91.

Seamstress Josefa would definitely have spent time perusing the quilts, household linens and ready-to-wear sections of the catalog. She would have looked for fashion trends, judged the latest styles and determined what would and wouldn't work in her frontier Florida environment of Persimmon Hollow.

One fashion at the peak of popularity at that time was the ridiculous bubble sleeve that puffed out four or five times the width of the wearer’s arm. I’d have skipped that trend had I lived back then. Just like I skipped the whole cold-shoulder blouse trend of recent years.

My seamstress heroine had better fashion sense than to wear those massive winglike sleeves. She had style and taste. Of that I'm sure. I know her pretty well. :) 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

1896 Sears catalog Amazon of its day

screengrab of part of a page about tea, from 1896 Sears catalog
Detail of a page from the 1896 Sears catalog
I stumbled across the 1896 Sears Roebuck catalog on—of all places— Of course I proceeded to spend too much time there. 

My main interest lies in how old catalogs depict items used in everyday life. Another reason is the time period. Paging through the catalog digitally reminded me that characters in my novels would have thumbed through the real thing. The 600-plus-page catalog was the Amazon of its day.

My novels are in my mind because I’ve just re-released the Kindle version of Books 1 and 2 in the Persimmon Hollow series. I got the rights back from the publisher, who no longer sells the books. Now I’m scrambling to get them reprinted with new covers. So far, the Kindle versions are available on Amazon. Paperback is coming soon, as well as versions for other ebook platforms.

The characters in my novels live in a late 19th century world. They would have received the Sears catalog in the mail. And even ordered groceries from it. The 1896 catalog included an entire grocery section, much to my surprise. 

It’s like the “everything old is new again” adage. People 125 years ago ordered groceries from home just like people do today. On paper, not online, true. And who knows how the shipments arrived in areas outside regular mail delivery back then. It’s fun to think about.

In addition to groceries and household items, the catalog featured a sizable pharmacy section. All kinds of tinctures, potions, lotions, oils and other ingredients were offered, enough to stock a  pharmaceutical factory. You could even buy laudanum (23 cents for a 2-oz. bottle). 

The pharmacy section’s offerings were a cross between a modern drugstore’s selections and the homeopathic remedies found at health food stores. Except it’s now illegal to purchase some of the ingredients that old catalog sold.

I noticed another indication of the same-but-different mantra. Customers in 1896 could order tea that came from Japan, China, Formosa and Ceylon. People living in the time of my novels would have recognized all four locations. Today, we’re most familiar with Japan and China. Formosa back then was a name associated with the island of Taiwan. Ceylon was the British colonial name of the now-independent country of Sri Lanka. 

Sears particularly touted its Golden Tips Ceylon and Ungalora Ceylon teas as the healthiest, best flavored and most economical of all teas. But customers could choose from among several types of teas. Prices ranged from 19 cents to 51 cents per pound, depending on grade and quantity.

There was no popping a cup of water in the microwave to heat up tea water in those days. If you want to brew tea the way they did in 1896, the catalog shared the following instructions:

“Make it at the table; heat the pot, then pour in water that has just come to a boil (not water that has been boiling for some time), put the tea on top of water, let stand from 2 to 7 minutes and pour into cups or other pot; do not let it stand on leaves as that destroys the delicate flavor so much desired.”

I think I’ll go make myself a cup of tea. With some help from the microwave.

New covers of the 3 Persimmon Hollow novels
Here are the new covers for my novels. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Building the Florida dream

1960s aerial image of early Deltona
Aerial image of early Deltona
I'm expanding the parameters of my blog today. The 1960s in Florida pretty much seem like pioneer history at this point. 

OK, I know, it's a bit far-fetched to write about the 1960s when I describe the blog as having a late 1800s-early 1900 focus. But Florida still wasn't heavily developed in the early 1960s.

One of the most interesting aspects of that decade is the way planned communities took hold in the state. One of the companies that led the movement was the family-owned Mackle Company.

I recalled their influence when my hubby found an amazing 1960s video in which one of the Mackle brothers spoke at length about the company's many initiatives in the state. The video seems to have been filmed in the late 1960s or possibly early 1970s.

Mackle mega-developments have taken some rap over the years. But on this video you'll hear some prescient comments. Frank E. Mackle Jr. predicted water as the resource needing the most careful shepherding. He spoke about the need for what we today call greenbelts and about how the Mackles included parks in their planned communities. 

The Mackles' Florida communities were launched more than half a century ago and today are some of the state's large cities. The one I'm most familiar with is Deltona, as I live near there. The photo with this blog post shows the community when construction was in full boom, in the late 1960s. The empty land at top right helps illustrate the before-and-after. 

Today, Deltona is a city of more than 90,000 residents. It's the most-populous city in the county I live in. My city of residence, founded more than a century earlier in the 1870s, has about 35,000 residents.

The other Mackle communities across the state also mushroomed - Spring Hill, Marco Island and others. Marco Island was the upscale one, but the others offered truly affordable housing.

In the early 1960s, a one-bedroom house with lot included cost just under $7,000 in Deltona. That comes in at about $79,000 in today's dollars. Today's tiny houses in planned communities tend to start somewhere in the $300,000s.

The Mackle-built communities faced growing pains, as you can read in a 1985 Orlando Sentinel* article. But they continued growing. The Mackles did a lot of advertising and public relations, and people responded.

The company even displayed one of their Florida houses at the 1964 World's Fair in New York. I remember. I saw it and walked through it. My eight-year-old self was mightily impressed. Didn't known at the time it was a Mackle house in Deltona. I only saw a bright, airy depiction of the Florida dream. 

That dream is still bringing people today.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

When gold grew on trees

1904 image of an orange grove
A homestead grove in pre-modern Florida
might have looked like this 1904 one.
Credit: Library of Congress
Oranges are on my mind. I just finished reading Florida Oranges, A Colorful History, by Erin Thursby (American Palate, 2019). What a delicious book, pun intended. It's an enjoyable journey that illustrates just how deeply citrus and Florida are intertwined.

One of the hardest things for me to grasp was how much citrus dominated the state and its people in the past. When some people stampeded to the West to strike gold, others flocked to Florida where a different type of gold grew on trees. 

Advice for the Florida bound was plentiful. Books and pamphlets shared all kinds of details. One of these books in my online library is The Florida Settler, published in 1873. It covers more than citrus, but that’s the section I zoomed to. 

Lemons and limes were plentiful and productive in the state at that time. The author says the following about lime production in South Florida: “So profuse is the yield of fruit that in some places the ground is literally covered with it.” (49) Lime juice, the author adds, is “unquestionably the best remedy that can be employed in scurvy.” (49)

But oranges were king, and they grab the most attention of the fruits listed. The author says that, in the two years before the book’s publication - 1872 and 1871 - more than 2 million orange trees were planted in counties that bordered the St. Johns River. 

A person could get in on the action fairly easily. A “man of means” could set up a 10-acre citrus grove for $1,150, a little more than $28,000 today.* The price assumes the grower contracts out all the work. The valuation of the various components boggles me. The land itself - the 10 acres - cost only $25. The inflated worth of that amount is still only about $630 today. Imagine, 10 acres for less than the cost of a new smartphone. You could secure an online loan for that amount in minutes. 

Land clearing is budgeted at far more - $200 for the 10 acres. Breaking the ground after clearing is another $90 and fencing the property also another $90. That $380 amounts to nearly $10,000 today. 

The largest expenditure was $600 for 600 orange trees, each four years old. That’s $1 a tree. It equates to about $25 a tree today. Buying 600 at a time would put a dent in your budget: $600 in 1873 is some $15,000 today. 

Costs for moving and planting the trees were estimated at $100 ($2,500). Let’s not forget a year’s worth of fertilizer: five sacks of Peruvian guano at $9 each, for a total of $45. That would be expensive today - the $9 sacks would each cost $225. But we don’t know how big a sack was in 1873. It had to be large, because only five of them would last a year.

The "Man of Means" price chart is on page 41 of the Florida Settler book. It assumes the best of everything. The author points out that land clearing could be half the estimated account if the foliage wasn’t too thick. Two-year-old trees could be bought for 25 cents each. 

And who needs fences, when, as the author states, “the most successful of the old planters actually herd their cows around the young trees for weeks at a time, and maintain their trees by ‘cow-penning,’ using a fence for the purpose of keeping the cattle in the grove, instead of keeping them out.” (Emphasis included in the original text.)

The author helpfully follows luxury grove expenditures with a plan for those of lesser means. (42) “Cost for a Poor Man” began with free homesteaded land. Out of those 160 acres, 10 acres would be chosen for a grove. Existing trees would be deadened instead of removed, for $4 ($100). This man would raise his hundreds of trees from seed, from an initial outlay of $25 ($630). The biggest costs were for plowing, $50 ($1,260) and for planting and manure, $100 ($2,500). 

In all, the "poor man" could start his grove for $193 ($4,860), less if he did his own plowing, planting and other field work. 

Aside from the hard physical labor, a big difference in the two types of groves showed up in payback. A citrus tree starts to bear fully at about eight years old. The luxury grove would provide good returns in four years. The economy one wouldn’t show a profit for eight years. But it could be done. 

Within a decade, the economy grove would generate revenue between $5,000 ($126,000) and $10,000 a year ($252,000), according to the book. What that man needed most to get started was “patience and industry.” True words even today.

The author based his revenue estimates on the era's long-established groves. The famed Dummitt’s grove on the Indian River yielded 600,000 oranges in 1872. Dummittt earned $11,000 and production and maintenance had only cost $1,000. A grower named Hart in Palatka earned $15,000 to $20,000 a year from his grove, and another grower in Mellonville (now Sanford) earned $12,000 to $15,000 a year. These are all in 1873 dollars. The groves were sized between 1,100 and 3,000 trees.

The author happily noted the lack of problems with citrus, with scale being the most prevalent concern. No citrus canker, and certainly no citrus greening. 

The groves that once blanketed the state are long gone except in South Florida. Even within my lifetime, I remember seeing massive groves in Central Florida, but no more. What the freezes didn’t destroy, bacteria, viruses, and land developments did. 

In other blog posts, I’ve lamented the loss of abundant harvests from my backyard Meyer lemon and Robinson tangerine trees. Greening felled both trees. I’ve got a peach tree in their place now. The fruit is delicious. But it doesn’t say Florida the way citrus does - or did. I’m not sure anything can.

If you enjoy learning about citrus, read both the modern book and the older one. The full, cumbersome title of the 1873 one is: The Florida Settler, or Immigrants’ Guide; A Complete Manual of Information Concerning the Climate, Soils, Products and Resources of the State

Although I’ve cited the author throughout this post, the man who penned the book doesn’t call himself that. The title page says the book was “Prepared by D. Eagan, Commissioner of Lands and Immigration." It was printed in Tallahassee on July 1, 1873. I just realized that means it was printed a year shy of 150 years ago. Such a distant past is hard to conceptualize. So much has changed. But citrus has endured.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Give thanks for libraries

Campaign poster featuring 'Stock the Shelves' text atop image of books
Are you a fan of libraries as I am? They've been part of my life since I learned to read. Right now, Catholic authors and publishers are hosting a Stock the Shelves campaign to encourage readers to ask their local libraries to stock books that reflect Catholic and/or Orthodox perspectives and worldviews. And Lord knows the world needs more of the moral compasses on which those worldviews and perspectives are built. 

You can read more about the campaign on my website. The official campaign dates are May 15-June 1, 2022 but I'm going to keep the Stock the Shelves page live on my website. There's no deadline on the idea of adding more good books to libraries.

Working on my campaign webpage made me wonder about the history of libraries in Florida. Superficial research revealed some immediate surprises. The Marion County library website said that two other nearby counties - Levy and Citrus - plus the Marion County city of Ocala formed the Central Florida Regional Library in 1961. That's right, 1961, practically modern times. 

Meanwhile the city of Seminole's website notes that the Seminole Community Library was founded in 1960. Another midcentury America founding. What took so long? What were Floridians doing about libraries in the 1880s, 1890s, and early years of the 1900s? 

My guess is early libraries were small and scattered, hosted in the homes or clubs of civic-minded individuals or set up via subscription. Libraries have to evolve to survive. One look inside a modern facility tells you that. So the Florida library of 100 or 120 years ago must have been vastly different than anything I can imagine. 

I browsed a bit more and was delighted to find a document titled Florida Library History Project - Volusia County Public Library in the University of South Florida's digital collections. Delighted because of what I learned and because Volusia County is the county in which I live. And, because finding that link led me to the entire Florida Library History Project's digital files. These types of discoveries are what make the rabbit hole of research so enticing.

But the first paragraph of the document chilled me. The first sentence says that, before the federal Library Services Act was enacted in the mid-1950s, "libraries were frequently substandard or non-existent, particularly in rural areas." I give thanks to have been born and raised in crowded Brooklyn, N.Y, where libraries were established early and where branches were often within walking distance. I visited my local library every week in the 1960s. And I know my parents did the same in their Brooklyn youths.

I especially appreciated my youthful access when I read the document's next sentence. Before the mid-1950s, in Florida, more than 2 million people had no access to libraries. And only 25 percent of the state's population had adequate access. I could cry at reading that. What did the poor, rural, intelligent child hungry for books and knowledge do?

I had no idea libraries were such latecomers to many scenes. Volusia County's countywide effort began in 1949. The document's explanations about earlier efforts likely mirrors what occurred in other places in Florida. Women's clubs, membership associations, or small municipal reading rooms served as local libraries. Books were often second-hand and donated by the sponsors. 

Go visit your nearby library and be thankful it exists. Join the local Friends of the Library if you can, to support supplemental projects that aren't funded through other means. I love online libraries but nothing beats a browse through the shelves in person. Shrinking though those shelves might be. I realize - as I already said -  that libraries must continue to evolve if they want to continue to exist. I get it. Just have to remind myself sometimes.

But right now, I'll go spend too much time cruising through the Library History Project's online collection. I know it has to be rich in period details about libraries starting small and starting as labors of love and community-mindedness. 

Most - if not all - of today's precious libraries have roots in the hearts and minds of regular people who loved to read, loved to learn, loved books, and loved to help others gain access to the same. For that, we all can give thanks. Support your local library. It's a treasure. And ask them to stock books you'd like to read.

Happy reading!