Christmas in Our Sitting Room

This week and next we are posting photos of our Victorian Holiday decorations.  We have the house looking pretty snazzy (I believe that’s a Victorian decorating term). 

Today we are featuring the sitting room.  The tree has the featured location in our bay window and gift wrapped packages are everywhere.  Our antique concert grand piano has a flock of angels roosting on it, as does the cast brass fireplace. 

Peacock feathers decorate the swags over the doorways and the antique china cupboard housing the jewelry sales display. 




Since our mansion will be 123 years old this month I thought it would be appropriate to share with you the newspaper coverage of the open house.

Cheyenne Daily Leader

July 27, 1888


Its Hospitable Doors Thrown Wide Open Last Evening, Mr. and Mrs. Nagle’s Reception in Their New House and A Brief Description of the Mansion’s Many Beauties


The recently completed residence of Mr. and Mrs. E. Nagle was ablaze with light and brilliancy last evening.  The occasion was a house warming party with which they signalized their occupancy of the new structure.  No very elaborate exterior decorations were attempted.  Chinese lanterns strung about the lawn alone giving a gala appearance to the surroundings.

For the accommodation of the guests the new residence was thrown open to the roof, whilst in the old residence, which adjoined, the orchestra was stationed which provided music for those who desired to indulge in the pleasure of dancing.

By 9 o’clock visitors began to rapidly arrive and soon the mansion was thronged.  The guests were received by Mr. and Mrs. Nagle and their niece, Miss Hibbard.  Little groups of people found their way all over the house and having feasted their eyes with pleasure on the artistic beauties of the lower floors, the ladies particularly had a chance to go into ecstasies over the arrangement above the stairs.  Every visitor was charmed with what he saw and congratulations were showered on the host and hostess.  Lunch was served by Kabis in very excellent style.

The House Itself

The Nagle mansion, on the northwest corner of Seventeenth and House streets, presents a striking architectural appearance.  Its style is Romanesque, and the white stone used in its construction tends to give it a massive appearance.  The southeast corner of the building stands out from the direct line of the main structure and gives it its most distinctive and characteristic feature.  On the first floor a square bow window, which on the second floor takes a circular form and finally ends above the roof in an octagonal tower.  The front and side of the building are frequently relieved with angularities which adds to the beauty.  Much of the stone work is finely carved, the gargoyles above the Seventeenth street windows being particularly fine.  A portico extends across the main face of the building.

Passing through the double main doors the visitor finds himself in the hallway which divides the house into two equal parts.  To the left are folding doors leading to the drawing room and just beyond the door leading into the dining room.  To the right is the door leading into the sitting room which in turn opens into the library, an apartment which is also reached from the hallway.  Nearly opposite the library door is a stairway leading to the second floor.  On the first landing, in full view of the hall is a stained glass window of artistic design through which the light floods in mellowed streams.  The hallway is very attractively decorated.  The ceiling is laid off in panels of papier mache treated in subdued colors with bronzes and gold leaf.  The side walls are of richly stamped leather and the mirror and hat rack framed in antique oak.  The hallway itself is finished in cherry.  A chandelier of brass in Moorish design depends from the ceiling. 

So far as the decorations go, the drawing room is perhaps the most striking apartment of the house.  It contains three windows of six feet in height, the center one filled with a single sheet of beveled plate glass, all facing Seventeenth Street.  All the woodwork is mahogany but the prevailing tint of the room is a rich cream.  The royal Wilton carpet which covers the floor is unique in pattern.  The paper is of a mild tint and of a lace pattern.  The tinting is exquisite.  The ceiling is painted in oil, and the effect of the whole is one of complete artistic harmony.  An almost severely plain fireplace in bronze, old brass and copper, occupies the western end of the room.  A few artist proof drawings and some brick-a-brac  add charm to the interior of this apartment.

Directly opposite is the sitting room.  The distinctive characteristic of this apartment is it’s the northeast corner filled with a single sheet of semi circular beveled plate glass six by seven feet in  dimension  and flanked by two square plate glass windows of smaller size.  This unique feature of Cheyenne’s r residence architecture produces an admirable effect.  It may be mentioned here that each apartment, so far as its furnishing is concerned, is an artistic study distinct from any other apartment.  The prevailing tint in the sitting room is gray blue.  The carpets, drapery and wall paper partake of this tint.  The woodwork is in antique oak, and the fireplace of plastic work with exquisite panels in bronze.

The adjoining room on the same side of the house is the library, and as benefits its character, the finish is in somewhat somber colors.  The carpets and walls are of terra cotta tone.  It is finished in antique oak.  The fireplace is a very elaborate design and highly ornamental.  Panels of stained glass add richness to the room.

The dining room is of a light and airy finish.  The walls are of figured felt, yellowish in tone with heavy borders of Lincrusta Walton and ceiling painted in oil.  The whole is exquisitely modulated.  It is finished in natural oak, its floors being of polished oak, cherry and maple.  A sideboard of exquisite workmanship occupies one end of the room.  Light is received from two large windows set in frames with copings elaborately carved.  Above each plate glass is a square of colored glass set in squares and circles through which the light floods richly.  One door leads from this into the butler’s pantry and thence into the kitchen, which possesses all the most modern conveniences.

On the second floor are four large apartments and several smaller ones, each of which is a study in artistic decoration.  On the third floor are many other rooms, one of which is formed by the octagonal tower before mentioned, and is intended for a little conservatory.  The ceilings on the first floor are eleven feet high and on the second, ten.

The basement itself is one of the most remarkable features of the house.  The whole building will be heated by a large Smead furnace.  The arrangements for hot and cold air, the big filtering apparatus, the scientific pluming, sewerage, and ventilating system strike one forcibly in contemplating the improved methods in modern architecture.  Mr. Nagle himself supervised the whole work, and to his keen judgment the complete success of many unique features is entirely due.  The building, exclusive of the grounds and stables, cost about $35,000.

As usual, the newspaper didn’t always get the details  right (fireplaces in the parlor and sitting room are cast brass, the entry ceiling is carved leather, etc) but you HAVE to love the flowery Victorian wording.  It appears that it was a gala event of the first order.

The 1880 Elopement of Miss Gracie Morse

       While I was doing research, I ran across the following article from The Democratic Leader, Cheyenne,Wyoming, Tuesday Morning, May 18, 1880.  It tickled me, so I thought I’d share it with you.



       New York, May 17 — Society in Tarrytown was thrown into a flutter of excitement this evening by the announcement that Miss Gracie Morse, the eldest daughter of Rev. J. B. Morse, a niece of the late Commodore Vanderbilt, had eloped with the family coachman, George Winter.  Rev. Mr. Moore is a missionary preacher attached to Blackwells Island penitentiary.  The family has one of the most spacious and elegant residences in Tarrytown.  Miss Morse is now Mrs. Winter and is 22 years old, highly educated and attractive, and has been much courted.

       Winter is 23 years of age.  During the absence of the family today they drove to North Tarrytown and were married, returning to the house intending to keep the matter a secret.  It became nosed about and they fled and are now supposed hiding in the town.  The family are very much angered and humiliated over the matter.

Dentistry in the Old West

          I’ve been blogging less regularly lately because I’ve been occupied with multiple dental visits.  As I pondered a topic for this week I thought it might be interesting to take a look back in time to see what kind of dental care was available in Victorian times.  While a number of treatments are quite ancient, many of the techniques we now use were first developed during the 1800’s.

          Gold leaf fillings were first recommended by Giovanni d-Arcoli in 1848.  Prior to that time fillings were comprised of such things as stone chips (ouch), turpentine resin (yuck), gum (eeewww), and metals.  Amalgams incorporating mercury were developed in the early 1800s.  While we all know these have been debated in recent years, the original reason for use of mercury does make sense.  Those with little mercury in them had to be heated to a high degree in order for the metals to bind (ouch).  Including more mercury in the mix made it possible to bind the metals at room temperature.  False teeth date back as far as 700 B.C. when the Etruscans made them out of ivory and bone.  They were secured in place with a system of gold bridgework. This actually seems like pretty advanced thinking for that time.

          The first electric dental drill was patented in 1875 and the patent for the dental chair followed in 1848.  Novocain, thankfully, came along in 1884.

         There’s historical evidence that about 2700 BC the Chinese used acupuncture to treat tooth pain.  In 1884, Carl Koller introduced the first local anesthetic used in dentistry, cocaine.  It wasn’t until 1905 that Novocain was developed by a German Chemist, Alfred Einkorn.  He was looking for a non-addictive, easy-to-use, safe local anesthetic to be used on soldiers during wartime.  Novocain never became popular for military use but it did become widely used by dentists.  In 1845, Dr. William Morton, initiated the use of anesthesia for tooth extraction.

         In the early days of the old west there were often few professional men in towns.  Dentists were often called upon to perform other duties such as healing the sick and wounded, serving as town coroner and/or undertaker, or treating diseased animals.

         One of the most famous dentists of the old west was John “Doc” Holliday, DDS, who was originally from Georgia and educated in Philadelphia.  Known more for gambling and gun fighting than dentistry, he crammed a lot of living into his 36 years of life.  He began practicing dentistry in Atlanta, but having contracted tuberculosis (or “consumption” as it was called at the time) he moved west and lived in various places in Texas, Las Vegas (New Mexico), Denver, Cheyenne, Deadwood, Dodge City, and Tombstone, Arizona.  The last years of his life were spent in Leadville, Colorado where his health continued to deteriorate as he became increasingly dependent on alcohol and laudanum.  He died in a sanatorium in Glenwood Springs, Colorado and is buried in Linwood Cemetery.  Legend has it that his last words were, “Now that’s funny.”

Here Comes the Cavalry!


  Fort D.A. Russell was established in 1867 and named for David Allen Russell, who was a Civil War general killed at the Battle of Opequon.  It was established at a site known as Crow Creek Crossing, to protect workers involved in the construction the of the first transcontinental railroad.  Soldiers also served as guards for telegraph lines, stages, repair crews and surveying parties.

     The fort was always open to the plains, not stockaded, as forts are usually portrayed in old western movies.  The first structures were log cabins for enlisted men.  Tents housed officers through the first winter.

     The earliest buildings were of board and batten construction, insulated with adobe walls.  Rooms were lined with tarpaper and wallpapered.  Since the buildings were shaky, plaster couldn’t be used as it would constantly fall down.  Each barrack had a separate kitchen constructed of logs. There was no plumbing.  Bunks had mattresses filled with hay and two men shared each bunk.  Due to shrinkage of the lumber, the area around the eaves of the buildings was open.

     Desertion was quite common in the early days.  In fact, on one expedition out of the fort, some 65 men deserted by the time the troop reached Lodge Pole Creek, taking government horses and weapons with them. Although some deserters were caught, it was easy to change one’s name, and obtain employment on the railroad or elsewhere for substantially more pay.

     In 1884, the fort was made a permanent installation. The following year a program of building brick structures began. In 1886, the 9th Cavalry of “Buffalo Soldiers” was assigned to the post. At one time the fort was the largest cavalry post in the country. Cavalry remained at the fort until 1927.   

     Officers and the military band were deeply involved with Cheyenne society.  Reciprocal dances, socials, balls, and public gatherings were held.  Many young bachelor officers married young ladies from Cheyenne. 

     Cheyenne also offered a full range of the less savory entertainments such as gambling, drinking and soiled doves.  At times soldiers were restricted to base in efforts to discourage such behavior during Cheyenne’s wild and wooly days.

     In 1930, President Hoover changed the name of Fort D. A. Russell to Fort F. E. Warren, after Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and former Governor and Senator F. E. Warren. Warren received the Medal of Honor for his distinguished action in an assault upon Port Hudson, Louisiana, on May 27, 1863.

     During World War II, the fort served as a training facility for the US Army Quartermaster Corps and a prisoner of war camp was also constructed on the site. In 1958, it became part of the Strategic air Command.

     Fortunately, today the base has been designated a historic area and most of the structures in the historic district have been maintained. It has many large gorgeous brick homes and buildings (a number of which are reported to be “haunted”).   The base is also a protected haven for our native pronghorn antelope.

George Washington’s Rules of Civility


    If you’re like me, you may not have known that George Washington put assembled some rules of civility. I initially saw these in Twentieth Century Edition, Hill’s Manual Illustrated, but have since noticed them circulated in newspapers during the late 1800s.  Here are some that make good sense and are never out of style:

  • Every action in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those present.
  • Undertake not to teach your equal in the art he himself professes; it savors of arrogancy.
  • When a man does all he can, though it succeeds not well, blame not him that did it.
  • Wherein you reprove another be unblamable yourself, for example is more prevalent than precept.
  • Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of anyone.
  • Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.
  • Speak not injurious words, neither in jest nor earnest.  Scoff at none, although they give reason.
  • Speak no evil of the absent, for it is unjust.
  • In visiting the sick do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein.
  • Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.
  • Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.
  • In disputes be not so desirous to overcome as not to give liberty to each one to deliver his opinion.

On personal appearance:

  • Play not the peacock, looking everywhere about you to see if you will be well decked, if your shoes fit well, if your stockings set neatly and your clothes handsomely.
  • In your apparel be modest, and endeavor to accommodate nature rather than procure admiration.  Keep to the fashion of your equals, such as are civil and orderly with respect to time and place. 

     So in closing today, let’s all take George’s advice and remember “play not the peacock”.

Taken from the Twentieth Century Edition, Hill’s Manual Illustrated A Guide to Correct Writing with Approved Methods of Speaking and Acting in the Various Relations of Life, Embracing Instructions and Examples….Greatly Enlarged and Profusely Illustrated, Revised and Corrected to the Latest Dates by Thos E. Hill, Chicago, W.B. Conkey Company, 1905

Victorian Secrets of Personal Beauty


 The following Secrets of Personal Beauty were taken from the Twentieth Century Edition, Hill’s Manual Illustrated A Guide to Correct Writing with Approved Methods of Speaking and Acting in the Various Relations of Life, Embracing Instructions and Examples….Greatly Enlarged and Profusely Illustrated, Revised and Corrected to the Latest Dates by Thos E. Hill, Chicago, W.B. Conkey Company, 1905

Secrets of Personal Beauty — The Feet  (Kids, do not try this at home)

Much care should be taken to keep the feet in good condition.  The first important consideration in their management is perfect cleanliness.  Some people find it necessary to wash the feet morning and evening.  Many find it indispensably necessary to wash them once a day, and no one should fail of washing them at least three times a week, and the stockings should be changed as frequently if much walking be done.

Without washing, the feet are liable to become very offensive to others in a short time.  The feet of some persons will become disagreeably so, sometimes within a week if they are not washed, more especially if they perspire freely.

A foot-bath, using warm water, followed by wiping the feet completely dry, and afterward putting on clean stockings, is very invigorating after a long walk, or when the feet are damp and cold.

To escape chilblains avoid getting the feet wet.  Should they become damp, change shoes and stockings at once.  Wear woolen stockings, and do not toast the feet before the fire.  The approach of the chilblain is frequently prevented by bathing the feet in a strong solution of alum.

With the first indication of chilblains, as revealed by the itching sensation, it is well to rub them with warm spirits of rosemary, adding to the same a little turpentine.  Lint, soaked in camphorated spirits, opodeldoc, or camphor liniment, may be applied and retained when the part is affected. 

It is claimed also that chilblains may be cured by bathing the feet in water in which potatoes have been boiled.

Wear boots and shoes amply large for the feet, but not too large, and thus escape corns.  A broad heel, half an inch in height, is all that comfort will allow to be worn.