Image: An old, simple rotary press. (The rotary press described in the Saint Maggie series is steam-powered and much larger. But you get the idea.)
The final step in annoying an industrialist is modeled for us by Eli Smith. Actually, we have seen this before in two preceding novels, Seeing the Elephant and A Good Community. It goes like this: 1) Josiah Norton does something unethical or clueless; 2) Eli Smith pens and prints an editorial; 3) Josiah marches into The Register to complain to Eli; 4) Eli smooths Josiah’s ruffled feathers, but not entirely.
In my work in progress, A Balm in Gilead, it seems that Josiah recognizes Eli's modus operandi. But does that recognition really change the process? After all, Josiah has been successfully annoyed. And, perhaps, Eli’s feather-smoothing even has managed to annoy Josiah, too. In which case, kudos to Eli! He’s annoyed his industrialist twice as much.
(Author’s note: if you’re familiar with the series you’ll notice some changes in The Register’s personnel. Danny Coopernall is now the receptionist, while the former receptionist, Andy Randall, has been promoted to cub reporter. Hey, things change even in novels.)
Despite the above, in the new book Josiah Norton will be in for more than the usual challenges, challenges that just might cause a shift in his attitude and way of life.
Why go in this direction (if the character is amenable)? Simple. I suspect that it is relatively rare for people to go through life and not experience events that challenge their beliefs and even the way they live their lives. I guess I tend to be somewhat optimistic, and therefore it is no surprise that Maggie and Eli have a similar optimism, as does the tone of most of my books.
The long and short of it is that I feel called to bring a bit of hope into a divided and hurting world. Whether anything I do will make any difference is unknown. Just the same, the Saint Maggie books are my way of speaking my piece – and perhaps of speaking for peace.
Janet R. Stafford
Image: “Our Honored Guest,” Frank Bellew, Harper’s Weekly, 2 September 1871. From the collection of Bert Hansen, Ph.D., found in his essay, “The Image and Advocacy of Public Health in American Caricature and Cartoons from 1860 to 1900,” published in the American Journal of Public Health, November 1997, Vol. 87, No. 11, 1798-1807.
I have no doubt that Eli, Maggie, and friends would have perceived Josiah Norton in much the same way as the artist who drew the above caricature of 1870s industrialists. Eli and cohort are becoming aware, or at least suspicious of the impact that low wages and poor living conditions have on the health of the employees in Norton Mill No. 3. The only change they might have made to Bellew’s illustration would be to replace the word “Cholera” on Death’s carpet bag with the words “Typhoid Fever.”
Of course, issues regarding the use and abuse of employees in factories is not new to the Saint Maggie series. In Seeing the Elephant, Eli visits factories and mills other than the ones belonging to Josiah Norton in order to write an article on the subject for Blaineton’s newspaper, The Register. Josiah, by the way, views said article as a personal attack. Eli claims it is not, which is partially true.
My crusading newspaperman dislikes the way things are going and has thrown his hat in with the working class.
Now… on to our topic.
What’s the second step in annoying a 19th century industrialist?
Surprise him. Also, go over his head. It’s a two-step process.
When Josiah Norton stamps his little foot and demands that patients stricken with typhoid fever must be removed from Dormitory Number One to make room for new employees, Drs. Lightner and Frost set out to solve the problem, thanks to a brilliant idea from blacksmith Richard Hancock.
Granted, there is no doubt that today their activity would be considered illegal and followed by a big fat lawsuit. But the 1800s were a “can do” era with just a touch of “anything goes.”
I had planned to insert the SCRIBD document here and then follow up with my conclusion, but since Weebly has seen fit to be difficult and insists on not letting me add another text block, I'll do it here. Take that, Weebly. I pay for this site, but it's become really tough to work with ever since you fully hooked up with Square.
In the end, Josiah's annoyance is tempered by the buildings on his land. However, they were constructed free of charge and are ready to be rented to office employees and other higher-ups. In this way, monetary greed eventually overrides his outrage.
Next week, we'll look at the last step in annoying a 19th century industrialist, and Eli will demonstrate it for us in next week's Squeaking Blog.
Until then, stay cool and stay safe, friends,
Janet R. Stafford
Image: An old stone mill, Clinton, NJ. It now is the home of the Hunterdon Art Museum. Originally a grist mill, the structure was rebuilt in 1836 after it suffered a fire. This is the type of building Josiah Norton would have repurposed for his mills and factory.
In my work in progress, A Balm in Gilead, a typhoid fever epidemic breaks out in one of the dormitories at the Norton woolen mill and uniform factory. This of course is a problem for industrialist Josiah Norton, who owns the mill and the factory. The more ill people take up room in his dormitories, the less space to house new workers.
Before we go on, here’s a little bit about the industrialists of the 1800s-early 1900s. They took the new innovations of their era (steam, rail, and others) and mass-produced clothing, pumped oil, dug coal, built railroads, expanded shipping, and went into real estate. The rise of the industrialists, also known as robber barons, occurred after the Civil War during the Second Industrial Revolution (from 1870 to 1914), but their roots lay in the First Industrial Revolution (from 1760 to around 1820-1840).
Next to the giants of the Gilded Age – Vanderbilt, Astor, Rockefeller, and Carnegie to name a few – Josiah Norton of the Saint Maggie series is small potatoes. The Gilded Age will not begin its reign for another six years. I like to think of Josiah as a harbinger of what is to come.
He owns several mills in Paterson (eastern New Jersey), one of the early mill towns in the state. But Josiah goes one step further and heads to western New Jersey to start a mill and uniform factory during the Civil War. He then purchases the property on which Maggie’s old boarding house once stood and constructs the town’s first, rather swanky hotel. A legend in his own mind, Josiah dreams of turning the sleepy burg of Blaineton into a metropolis with him at its center.
Our Mr. Norton is a rapacious and focused man, so much so that he has little in the way of empathy for his employees. He is officious, ostentatious, and doggone annoying. And he is a perfect foil for Eli Smith, the crusading editor of The Blaineton Register. In fact, Josiah starts butting heads with Eli nearly the minute the two meet, an event that occurs in Seeing the Elephant.
Now, in September of 1864, Josiah finds himself with the perplexing problem of what to do with workers who have developed typhoid fever. Naturally, he wants to shove them out of the way and put new workers into the dormitories so the production of woolen cloth and uniforms can continue with as little interruption as possible.
Josiah’s plans do not go down well with the town’s doctors, Fred Lightner and Lydia Frost (Maggie’s eldest daughter). So, the first way to annoy an industrialist is get in the way of his business.
In today’s installment, still a rough draft, Josiah puts his foot down, only to have the town’s doctors step on it.
Coming this weekend: How to Irritate an Industrialist, Step 2.
Janet R. Stafford
Image from http://clipart-library.com/
I haven’t been anywhere actually. Aside from a weekly trip to get groceries and a weekly visit with the man in my life, I live a semi-quarantine existence. But here's where I've "been" nonetheless.
I count myself fortunate because I still have my job and the church has the funds to pay my salary.
To say that COVID-19 has changed everything else for me is of course a huge understatement. Doing my job now means I spend a fair amount of time on my laptop doing things like writing a weekly family devotional, leading a Bible study, participating in leading our worship services, updating the church website and Facebook page, and working on fall planning like trying to figure out how to do an at-home Sunday school and how to do a workable youth group without getting us all sick.
In July our pastor finally went on a much-needed vacation. I’m pretty sure he was just lurking around his house for three weeks, kind of like I’m doing now. While he was away, I was responsible for leading worship and doing the preaching. Worship for us at First United Methodist (Somerville) is on Zoom. While everything is done live and therefore subject to all the hazards of live streaming, our parishioners are overjoyed to see one another’s faces and hear their voices. Zoom also allows those who do not have the internet to phone in and listen to the service, and permits people who have moved away from the area to Zoom in.
No, I'm not robbing my church in this photo. I was getting ready to lead a Zoom worship service. There were only 2-3 other people in the building with me: the organist and our cantor, who sings the hymns so people at home know what verse they're on. As I said, the congregation are at home. It's a good thing, too, because it was hotter than the hinges of Hades the three weeks I preached. We're economizing on the air conditioning.
Anyway, the experience of Zooming worship has led us to two huge "ah-ha's": 1) The internet plus the phone-in option makes us accessible to a greater number of people; and 2) we’re going to continue live streaming even after we re-open the building (which might not be until 2021). The challenges are the need for updated and new equipment including powerful Wi-Fi, volunteers trained to work the new equipment, and getting the leadership team up to speed because we’re a bunch of aging weirdos… I mean, churchy-types. All right… we’re weirdos. But this weirdness is exactly why I have stayed on staff with First UMC for twelve years.
Neglecting My Book Business
It’s been a struggle to keep up with the writing and blogging. However, one thing I did do was close Squeaking Pips Press, Inc. in June and start a DBA called Squeaking Pips Books. This has simplified my life greatly as I only need to report my income and expenses regarding Squeaking Pips Books as part of my personal income rather than deal with all the nonsense of being a corporation. Huge sigh of relief.
Dan's son-in-law splashing around with our grandsons.
With My Family
On the upside, I have been able to kick back and spend weekends at Dan’s house, where we have started a tradition of small family gatherings at his pool on Sunday evenings. It’s a small group: just Dan, me, his daughter, two grandsons, and sometimes his son-in-law. Rest assured, everyone is appropriately physically distanced, and if anyone goes in the house, they wear a mask. But Sunday evenings have been a genuine blessing. I think Vida has enjoyed them, too. She appears to like visiting with Dan’s cat, Pantera, and our “grand dog” Snowfie, a little Shih Tzu with a big personality. (A small dog with a big personality. Are you surprised? Of course not.)
Vida with Pantera Snowfie "Strike a Pose, Girl!"
So, I have been juggling the above, leading worship and preaching the last two weeks of July and the first week of August, and pre-prepping all the stuff I usually do each week so I could take something resembling a vacation.
To put it bluntly, I’m pooped. Just like everyone else, I’ve dealt with the stress of life during COVID, the need to change how I do my work, and all the rest. So I need the break – even if “break” means finally catching up on blogging and doing all the other work that comes with being an indie author.
Meeting Tenacious D
One other odd little thing. I had the pleasure of hanging out with a couple of celebrities the evening of August 7. Let me come out of the closet right now and say that I am one of the moderators for a Facebook fan group called All Things Jables and Kage (Jack Black and Tenacious D). Regardless of how you might feel about Tenacious D (and sometimes how I feel about them), the group is fun. Also, our little admin team is fantastic. The four of us are tight considering I live in New Jersey, and the other three are in Chicago, Turkey, and Germany. After much haranguing by one of the group’s administrators, I gave in and joined her in a little online meet and greet. Part of my “job” with the team is to be an ad hoc pastor and advisor. So, I was doing some virtual handholding for my German friend that evening.
But I did get to visit with Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Check out the screenshot. Notice I’ve got my mouth open. I was talking as usual.
Jack and Kyle are very personable guys. I didn’t feel as if I was chatting with celebs. More like two guys who were comfortable to talk to and sometimes like annoying buddies. For instance, when I entered the chat room, they both shouted, “Janet!” That was followed by “Dammit, Janet” (yes, the song of the same name from the Rocky Horror Picture Show). And they concluded by singing the obligatory “I loooove you.”
I wanted to slug them. In sisterly love, of course. Because of all the songs dedicated to females out there, “Dammit, Janet” seems to be the only dang song in the world for my name. Naturally, that launched the three of us into a conversation about Rocky Horror – and then sadly, something went wrong with the system and the chat shut down at my end before our time was up.
I wish I had had a little more time to tell those two guys that in my head they are cast as two characters in the Saint Maggie series. It’s no secret that I picture and hear Jack when I write Eli. A little bit of Black edge really has helped my character’s development. And now – thanks to pressure from my lovely friends on the admin team – I have been forced to give Eli a new friend by the name of Shelby, who looks and sounds like Kyle. Shelby is a traveling musician (guitar and voice) and is still in the process of developing in the new novel. And yet, he somehow has managed to get himself a girlfriend who plays a mean fiddle. Characters… go figure.
So that’s what I’ve been up to. I plan to get myself back into the discipline of blogging, not to mention regular writing, during my vacation. Keep a prayer in and your fingers crossed that I’ll be able to continue when my workload resumes.
Meanwhile, stay well and stay safe, my friends.
Janet R. Stafford
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder