REMINISCENCE OF EARLY TIMES
I do not know if gas was used before my time or not, but it was not generally introduced into houses, as it was later. Tallow dips, spermaceti candles, coal gas, spirit gas, camphene, whale oil, lard oil, coal oil and finally electricity were used. The social standing of our people was frequently alluded to according to their position as tallow candle, or spermaceti. When coal oil was first introduced, it was made from coal, and therefore properly called coal oil, selling as high as $1.50 per gallon and smelling very strong. After the discovery of great quantities of petroleum, first called “rock oil,” we soon learned how to refine it. Much gasoline was left in it, making it quite dangerous for common use. The law had to regulate that , and required most of the gasoline to be extracted, or driven off, but now that gasoline is worth more than oil, it is all saved and consequently the oil is safer to use than before the great use of gasoline.
In my early days, people were much more religious, and I might say superstitious, than now, frequently practicing cults that now seem very far-fetched – witchcraft, and various other follies disappearing as education advanced.
Before the days of mowers, reapers, binders and threshers, grain was cut with a scythe and cradle or sickle, bound by hand, and shocked; finally threshed with flails, or by horses, running over it.
In some regions where sugar maples abounded, there was great fun attending maple sugar making, and many social bees were given where the young folks enjoyed the country air and the novelty of camp life.
Matches, as we now have them, were unknown. We dipped splints of wood in brimstone and carried boxes of tinder made of charred rags, to which we set fire with a flint and steel. All that to light the match! Recently the rebellion in Mexico has caused people to use the tinder box again. Match lock guns, and later flint lock, were used and they are still used in some parts of Asia and Africa.
Our kitchen fire places were usually very wide, wood being our principle fuel. Long iron levers or cranes hung so as to swing across the fire place on which pots were hung. Tin reflectors took the place of stoves for roasting meat, etc. We never taste roast turkeys now with the fine flavor they had then. Usually in the country there would be a recess on each side of the fireplace where the old man and woman would keep their pipes or snuff boxes.
In 1828 the first spade of earth was dug in starting the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. In 1834 it was completed to Washington, D. C. In August, 1830, Peter Cooper piloted the first locomotive made in the United States. The flanges of the wheels were on the outside.
Originally the Pennsylvania Railroad was owned by the State and probably other roads were so owned, but had to be sold on account of too many Boss Tweeds. Many roads before the use of steam were called tram roads, after the inventor in 1800; Benjamin Outram, taking the last syllable of his name. Tolls were paid for their use, as with many turnpikes or plank roads, which were common in those days. Some of these roads were owned by the State, but it was soon found they were the cause of political corruption and sold.