Monday, December 10, 2018

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Suspenders by Kaye Spencer #trivia #westernfictioneers #fashionhistory

Suspenders (aka braces and galluses) have been around for centuries as a practical means of holding up one's britches, particularly because of the high waists on men's trousers before belts and belt loops became functionally popular, which was roughly around World War I, when soldiers were introduced to uniform belts. Since the 1920s, suspenders have continued to ride a roller coaster of fashion popularity.

An article on the website offers this tidbit about the origins of suspenders along with an amusing anecdote:

The first suspenders can be traced to 18th century France, where they were basically strips of ribbon attached to the buttonholes of trousers. Benjamin Franklin is said to have worn them — although it's probably best not to ask how historians know that; back then, suspenders were considered an undergarment never to be seen in public. In fact, visible suspenders were considered risqué as recently as 1938, when a town in Long Island, NY tried to ban gentlemen from wearing them without a coat, calling it "sartorial indecency."
"First Suspenders" Public Domain Image

This article goes on to explain that in the 1820s, a British designer named Albert Thurston manufactured suspenders as we know them, which brings me to Samuel Langhorne  Clemens, aka author Mark Twain, as an  inventor of an alternative to suspenders.
Samuel Clemens Public Domain (b. Nov. 30, 1835 - d. Apr. 21, 1920)

Clemens received his first patent (#1221992) on December 19, 1871 for an alternative to suspenders, which he reportedly loathed entirely as miserably uncomfortable. He called this invention an "Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments" (ADSG). However, as with many inventions, the original designs are often adapted and the inventor's intent is either lost completely or altered in new and interesting ways.

Suspenders in Hollywood:
John Wayne with suspenders*

Humphrey Bogart with suspenders**
Clemens' suspenders patent didn't catch on for suspenders. According to an article from Smithsonian Magazine (HERE):

His “improvement in adjustable and detachable straps for garments” was a button-on adjustable strap that could be used to tighten garments–it could pinch a shirt at the waist, for example. “The advantages of such an adjustable and detachable elastic strap are so obvious that they need no explanation...” It would also be simple to make non-elastic detachable straps, Clemens wrote, “but I prefer to make them elastic.

An article in The Atlantic Monthly (HERE) explained it this way:

Clemens designed the adjustable and detachable strap to be used from one garment to another in order to 'fix' whatever clothing issue the wearer encountered. However, he did not elaborate on exactly how his invention should be used. He wrote that the "advantages of having a stretchy strap for any item is so obvious that they need no explanation."

Image from

His invention 'ADSG' did not catch on for pantaloons, suspenders, or vests. It did, however, find its niche with one particular garment: the brassiere. So, now you know who to thank, or cuss, for how a traditionally designed bra fastens.

On a side note, the other patents Clemens received were for a self-pasting scrapbook technique (1873) and a history trivia game (1875). He made $50,000 from the scrapbook invention. His other inventions either cost him money in the long run or simply didn't work. The website has more information about his other inventions and investments-gone-wrong HERE.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time

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U.S. Patent and Trademark Office -
The Atlantic - -,8599,2037331,00.html -
First Suspenders image Public Domain - Miscellaneous Items in High Demand, PPOC, Library of Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Samuel Clemens - Public Domain image: UnknownUnknown author, MarkTwain.LOC, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons
*John Wayne imbd -
**Humphrey Bogart - - 'wow'

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Loading a Cap and Ball Revolver

Cap and ball weapons were all “the thing” during the Civil War and later—right up until Smith & Wesson’s patent ran out on the bored-through cylinder and Samuel Colt could get in the self-contained cartridge game. Numerous models of cap and ball revolvers were produced until 1873.

If your character is using a cap and ball weapon, there are limitations. For instance, a muzzle-loaded long gun gives you one shot; a cap and ball revolver with six shots is just that—six shots. And  it can’t be reloaded quickly. Your characters won’t be reloading it while running from the bad guys or riding to the rescue. Keep reading and you’ll understand why.

Unlike a modern cartridge, where the bullet, powder and primer are enclosed in a brass case, reloading a cap and ball revolver takes 6 steps for each chamber. That’s six steps times six chambers to fully reload a revolver.

I took most of these pictures of my friend and fellow cowboy action shooter, “Major Misalot”, reloading his cap and ball revolver cylinder. The reloading can be done while the cylinder is in place on the revolver, too.

The loading is done in reverse order of the firing process, from the barrel side of the cylinder:

1. Add powder

In this picture of “Major Misalot”, he used a reloading “station”. Another cowboy friend “Noz” used a powder flask to measure the powder for each cylinder.

2. Place a lead ball on the powder in each cylinder

3. Ram the ball home, all the way down into the chamber. 

“Major Misalot” is using his modern reloader, but this can be done using the ramming rod on the revolver, as in the next picture. The rod is firmly pressed into the chamber then the cylinder is rotated until all six lead balls have been rammed pushed into place.

4. Grease the cylinder to prohibit chain firing – where the burning powder from one shot ignites the others in the cylinder. Obviously not a good thing!

5. Cap the nipple (think blasting cap here)

Another method to “cap” the chamber is to use a capper, a spring-loaded brass disc that presents the cap. Above, “Major Misalot” hand capped his. “Noz” uses a capper. He pressed a cap into position six times then went back over all six chambers to be sure the caps seated properly.

NOW its finally ready to fire.

With practice, it doesn’t take all that long to reload the six chambers in a cylinder, but you really can’t pour powder, ram a ball, cap the nipple and grease the chamber at a gallop. I can certainly see why many who relied on a cap and ball revolver carried fully loaded spare cylinders.

And, just to remind you why someone shooting black powder can’t hide…

Tracy Garrett

Saturday, December 1, 2018


By Tom Rizzo

Bounty Poachers, the latest novel by J.L. (Jerry) Guin, represents the third of a four-book series featuring Deputy U.S. Marshal James P. Stone. (Pushed Too Far, Book 1, & Lawman’s Gun (Book 2).
This time, Stone picks up the trail of two brothers who hunt men for bounty. Once, hard-working farmers, the two siblings turn bounty hunters as a way to survive. 

But success heightens their hunger for bigger paydays and one of the brothers comes up with a unique idea: killing other bounty hunters and poaching their captives. 


1.   The name of your latest novel is BOUNTY POACHERS. Tell me a little about the title and how you came by it.

Actually, the title came about after I had written the third chapter. I felt Bounty Poachers was a perfect title because of how the story was developing.

2.   What served as the inspiration for the story? What triggered the idea for the novel or the characters?

Lots of authors write about Old West bounty hunters. I wanted something a little different. The brothers, Jasper and Jason, are two young men, who lived and witnessed their parent's failure to scratch out a living on a Nebraska homestead. 

With both parents passing, Jasper became hardened by the hand that was dealt them. He saw life as it was on the frontier, tough and demanding. Jason, being of a softer nature was used to doing as he was told by his parents. Afterward, he just went along with whatever his older brother proposed.   

3.   Antagonists play a vital role in storytelling. Yours happens to be two brothers, broke and desperate. But are they motivated by something other than mere survival? What are their good qualities?

If not for circumstance, the brothers most likely would have lived as farmers their entire life. Jasper took the temperament of his father, lashing out when things didn't suit him. 

Jason took on the qualities of his mother, quiet, reserved and agreeable. It was Jasper who came up with the idea of hunting men for bounty. He hated groveling for a mundane job for little pay. 

Later, the idea of killing a bounty hunter and poaching his captive was his too. He had no plans to return to farm life. Bringing in wanted men were paying off.

4.   Deputy US Marshal James Stone is the main character—someone you’ve written about in two other novels. Who is Stone? Why should a reader care about him?

James Stone was introduced in PUSHED TOO FAR (first in the series) He and his freighting partner were accosted and robbed in their nighttime camp in the territory. 

During the robbery, Eldon Greyson, Stone's mentor, neighbor, and partner was killed. Stone heard one of the robbers call out the name of “Laird” just before he was knocked out. After walking to safety, Stone dedicated himself to finding and killing Laird.

While chasing after a train robber, his travels take him to Eaton, Kansas where he becomes a deputy sheriff then meets Deputy Marshal Jackson Millet. 

Millet invites him to become a deputy U. S. Marshal. In Book two–LAWMAN GUN—Stone becomes a U.S. Deputy Marshal, with the idea that the position would allow him to continue his search for Laird.

5.   What was your hardest scene to write?

Coming up with a suitable ending to the book. Stone still hadn't located Laird so in order to do so required another volume to be written. Book four DUE JUSTICE will be out soon. I'd like to note that the fine folks, Cheryl and Livia over at Sundown Press have been just great in publishing this series.

6.   What is the first story you ever published and how do you think of it now?

In 1995, Douglas Sharp asked for submissions to his little magazine called Western Digest up in Calgary. I sent in my story “Caught Red Handed.” It wasn't a very good story but it was my first and I was ecstatic when Douglas sent me a check for $15.00.
I went on to write 6 more stories for Western Digest. It has been a fun ride since then and I am still learning. 

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Jerry and his wife Ginny live in northern California. A prolific writer, he has authored over 40 short stories and 15 novels. 

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