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experiment mills; fine crops of weeds; the “forgettery”

      Experiment watched him out of sight, then returned to his shop where he spent most of his time puttering over some experiment. He had a strong aversion to anything called work and an equally strong delight in experimenting — whence his name. He would spend days — weeks — elaborating some new idea that was to make his fame and fortune, only to throw it aside for a newer or more promising conceit. His mind was filled with these embryo inventions, his shop with unfinished models; yet he had neither the patience nor the perseverance to make a success of any one of his many unique or useful conceptions.
      Meanwhile Mrs. Mills washed, ironed and scrubbed for the villagers, the children ran wild and the fertile acres were growing fine crops of weeds...

      For a little time it seemed as if his contact with the outside world had done him good, had awakened his ambition, for he cleared up the yard, and worked steadily until for once, the hay was in the barn without any spoiling. Then a new idea began to take shape in his fertile brain and everything else was neglected until this next model was also in working order. Then Judge Love was importuned for another loan.

ex Willametta Preston, “Experiment Mills” in The Vermonter 17:6 (June 1912) : 543-547 (543)
(via google books) : link
Harvard copy/scan (via hathitrust) : link


Judge Love lends money and advice, and shows some tough love too, to get Experiment to take care of first things first. Gets him out of the claws of some unscrupulous patent investors as well, puts his patent (for a device to store the surplus power of windmills) in good hands, and gets his washing machine and potato digger patented as well. Experiment can go on puttering and experimenting, now with his priorities straight, balance established.

Patents and puttering seem to go together. Two other instances are the “Strickland Patent Fire Extinguisher, over which the doctor had been puttering for years” (in Kathleen Norris’s novel Sisters (1919), excerpted at 251), and the anonymous story “Zigler’s Patent” in Frank Leslie’s Pleasant Hours (February 1880) — whose moral is “Stick to what you can do, but be sure to do it” (— excerpted at 195).

Willametta A. Preston (1860-1941)

originally Danville, Vermont, later Los Angeles. Her father Addison Webster Preston died in the Civil War (source; more); his brother retired to California (source). At some point, Willametta moved there, too.

Her stories are of an “improving” kind (to borrow a phrase favored by Ruth), and are found in literary/general interest magazines, as well as in various religious (Presbyterian and other) organs. Some of the Vermont stories feature recurring characters and/or places; they might have populated a Winesburg, Ohio kind of book. Her non-fiction pieces include anecodotes or episodes of Vermont history; profiles; nursery schools; young mothers; people organizing societies for mutual improvement. Willametta Preston was an organizer.

A list — no pretensions to completeness, subject to change/additions, and with comments here and there — follows. Links are all (with the last the single exception) to google books.

  1. “Ten Times One”
    Lend a Hand (“A Monthly Magazine of Organized Philanthropy”) 2:5 (May 1887) : 293-296 : link

    The story title is taken from Edward Everett Hale, his Ten Times One (1871) : link
    “Why can’t we organize, and adopt his mottoes and lend a helping hand?” — and so ten girls form a society... all members on equal terms (despite class, etc.). The story appears in a journal edited by Hale himself.

    Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) was editor of Lend a Hand
    wikipedia : link

  2. “An Experiment in Mile Street Church”
    The Evangelist (“A Religious and Family Paper”) 70:10 (New York; March 9, 1899) : 18-19 : link
  3. “Mrs. Pettigrew’s Venture”
    The Granite Monthly 27:1 (July 1889) : 31-33 : link

    Nice start to the story —

    “A jumping gold mine! A two-acre frog ranch! Why didn’t he call it a frog pond and done with it? Millions in it! I don’t believe it, there now.”
          Squire Pettigrew was reading aloud the headlines of his weekly paper, interspersing them with remarks of his own. It was the only way, he maintained, of getting the news in a nutshell, and what did anybody want of more?

    Mrs. Pettigrew will launch a frog business, to pay for her daughter Jessie to attend the academy; her husband is close with his money, and won’t pay.

  4. “Captain Azariah’s Mistake, In Trying to Help Pay for the Church Organ”
    Good Housekeeping (“A fornightly journal. Conducted in the interests of the higher life of the household”) 2:8 (August 1, 1890) : 180-182 : link
  5. “The Spinning Bee at Madam Skeers’ — An Incident of the War of 1812”
    The International 8:4 (April 1900) : 308-311 : link
  6. “Speaking of Cannon”
    St. Nicholas 27:9 (July 1900) : 804-806 : link

    Rivalry between neighboring towns Quirlton and Chesley, over a relic cannon. Quirlton “had been the scene of a terrible Indian massacre,” but the cannon had been discovered on the boundary line between both.

    frontispiece, facing title page that issue :
    “Destruction of the Spanish Cruisers off Santiago, July 3, 1898”) facing Jesse Peabody Frothingham, “Some Great Sea-Fights” pp 763-778 : link

    The Spanish-American War figured largely in the American press — and, I believe, imaginary — of the time. I am wondering, in part thanks to this immersion in Willametta Preston’s writing, if the Spanish-American War might in part have been a means to “forget” or leave behind/aside the trauma of the Civil War, and even the unfinished business of Reconstruction in the South.

    see “Donald’s ‘Forgettery’” below.

  7. “Life Hepinstall’s Passengers. A True Story of Old Times”
    By Willametta Preston, Danville.
    The Vermonter 12:1 (March 1907) 86-88 : link

    Life is the shortened name of Eliphalet Hepinstall. A (dangerous) prank played upon highwaymen.

  8. “The Recreation Club”
    American Motherhood 25:2 (August 1907) : 76-77 : link
  9. “One June Training”
    The Vermonter 12:11 (November 1907) : 346-347 : link
  10. “Runaway Pond”
    The Vermonter 13:1 (January 1908) : 5-7 : link
  11. “A Vermont Picnic on the Pacific Coast”
    The Vermonter 13:7 (July 1908) : 204-205 : link

    a report of a picnic for all Vermonters at Redondo Beach. A street car ride passes through Forest City, Hyde Park, Redondo.

    Vermont Ave (“established by 1882”) was, indeed, named for the state; : link

  12. “The Rally at Billymead”
    The Vermonter 14:2 (February 1909) : 52-53 : link
  13. “A Reign of Clubs”
    The Vermonter 14:12 (December 1909) : 348-350 : link
  14. “Hiram Boyd — Hero”
    The Vermonter 15:4 (April 1910) : 105-107 : link

    on a Civil War veteran, who’d been unjustly maligned.

  15. “Witch Grass. An actual occurrence in a Vermont town.”
    The Vermonter 15:7 (July 1910) : 215-217 : link

    on conspiracy-minded idiot locals, on so-called “Congress grass;” a smart local woman (from Billymead) is accused of sorcery.

  16. “A Day Nursery”
    The Sunday School Journal and Bible Student’s Magazine 46:7 (Cincinnati, July 1914) : 517 : link
  17. “Those ‘Heathen’ at Goshen Gore”
    in two parts:
    The Lutheran Companion (August 7, 1920) : 500-501 : link
    The Lutheran Companion (August 14, 1920) : 516-517 : link

    “Gore” refers to the shape of the not-quite-large-enough-to-be-a-village place in which the story is set. Its meaning here is a “tapering or triangular piece of cloth... inserted in a garment or sail to give it greater width.”

    The story concerns a minister who is retired (unwillingly) to remote Goshen Gore, where he (and his daughter) are well received, and he is reinstated in service and installed as pastor of a new church the locals have built for him.

  18. “Mothers at Play”
    The Continent (November 4, 1920) : 1348 : link
  19. “Clare Beverton Takes a Commission”
    The Epworth Herald 32:14 (Chicago, April 2, 1921) : 326-327 : link

    Summary at head of story —
    “Hillsville was some town. A stranger was so much of an oddity that he could get free board by visiting from house to house. The freckle-faced young scions of the village who had laid plans to go to the city called it Hickville. And then a city chap, a college graduate, came to Hillville commissioned for a career.”

    He makes a go of it (property still in the family, but abandoned). Also gets the local youth to see that the country isn’t so bad —

    “Janitors and night watchmen! Attractive as such places had looked before Clare’s advent — they were not desirable now. They had glimpsed better things. Once Clare had spoken of the stars as so many suns with attendant planets coursing about some great center; he called the stones by name; he knew abou the organization of ants; why — the country was worth knowing. Perhaps — after all.”

  20. “Americanization in the Far West”
    Social Progress 5: 2(February 1921) : 48-49 : link

    Social Progress was edited by Caroline Alden Huling (1856-1941), writer, editor, publisher
    author (in the same issue) of “The Making of American Citizens”
    pp 42-44 : link, and
    “a founding member of the Illinois Woman's Press Association (IWPA) in 1885. She also founded the Midwest chapter of Alden Kindred of America in 1912. She was the first woman in New York to be appointed a notary public and the first woman elected to office in the National Editorial Association. She was involved in the suffrage and temperance movements.”
    ex biographical sketch,
    Caroline Alden Huling papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Illinois at Chicago (MSHuli68) : link
    wikipedia : link

  21. “Carl’s Memory Day”
    (in The Children’s Corner, Conducted by “Cousin Joan”)
    The Christian Intelligencer and Mission Field (May 30, 1923) : 356 : link
  22. “Podunk’s Memorial Day; Based on facts”
    The Vermonter 29:12 (1924) : 204-207 : link

    Two teachers — Abbie Foster, teacher at South Podunk, and Elise Doyle, teacher at North Podunk, are able — by fortuitous developments and by machinations — to bring a divided community, once a single farm owned by Israel Podunk, together.

  23. “The Sunday School : Set High Training Standards”
    The Contiinent 56:51 (December 17, 1925) : 1519 : link

    Because it is regards the Japanese Christian community in Los Angeles, the article is transcribed in full, here —

    There are Japanese missions in Los Angeles, started by the various denominations, which have outgrown the “missionary stage” and are self-supporting. Some of these are interdenominational, calling themselves Christian churches and Bible schools in the broadest use of the term, not denominational. These schools have “federated” and have elected officers of their own, as the Japanese Bible School Association of Los Angeles.
          Last winter it carried on a “teacher-training program” that would do honor to some of our leading denominations. It printed and scattered “bulletins” telling the work of the week and inviting people to attend. It secured specialists for each department of the school. The Japanese had a habit of meeting each evening for a week of intensive work, with two speakers and a social hour at the close, refreshments included.
          The program was so arranged as to cover all essential points. The first evening brought a pastor from a Congregational church with fine suggestion for “A Worship Service for the School.” Then came a practical talk by a “beginning” specialist. The second evening had music for its first subject and primary work for the next. Service and “juniors” took the third evening. Then came “Records and Finances,” with adolescent work. The fifth evening brought “The Superintendent” and the adult department.
          Each speaker was asked to bring a written or typed copy of what was to be said. We could not imagine why until, at the close of the first evening, the leader said that because some of his teachers did not understand English very well, each would receive a mimeograph copy of what each speaker had said. The speakers had been asked to write out their addresses. Stenographers were present to take down the spoken words. The copies were corrected and sent out to all who paid the $1 registration fee — which all did. There was a full attendance each evening.
          The speakers were paid — much to our surprise; for the other Los Angeles Sunday schools do not pay their teachers and helpers. Moreover, automobiles were in waiting to take the speakers to their homes after the social hour.
          And these people were Japanese.

    Willametta Preston is presumably now (1925) settled in Los Angeles. She is listed in the Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles Telephone Directory (December 1931) :
    Preston Williametta [sic] r[esidence] 1584 W 24th REpublic-8741
    the house still exists : link (google maps, 20240427)

  24. “Donald’s ‘Forgettery’”
    Dew Drops 37:18 (May 4, 1914) :
    link (project gutenberg)

    “Oh, I forgot!” It was Donald excusing himself for leaving the gate of the chicken yard open, and now the pansy bed was all scratched up. Bessie was in tears, and Don was almost crying.
          “What shall I do with a little boy who is always forgetting?” mamma asked very gently. She had tried so many different ways to have Donald learn to remember.
          “Mamma, let’s have a forgetter, for Don, or any of us. Just a big closet — that one upstairs with the window will do. Let’s put all our forgets in there. Anything that's spoiled because we forget it, goes in there, for us to mend or to think of some way to make good. If we forget, we have to go there for the very next hour — unless it’s schooltime — no matter how we want to do something else.”
          “Shall we try that, Donald?” asked mamma. She knew that Uncle Rod was coming within that hour to take the children to ride.
          Donald knew it, too, but his voice did not falter, “Yes, mamma, let’s begin now. I do want to stop forgetting.”
          So up to the big closet they went, mamma, and Donald, each carrying some of the wilted pansy plants. There was a low stool to sit on, and there Donald spent the next hour thinking as he had never thought before. He heard Uncle Rod come and go away again.

          It was a long time before Donald forgot again, then for days it seemed as if he almost could not remember. Every day for a week, he had to spend an hour in the “forgettery.” Not one of the other children had had to use it, so it began to be called “Donald’s forgettery.” He had invented a little play with the figures on the paper and the boards in the floor, so the time did not seem long at all. He was laughing when mamma came to let him out, and she asked what he was doing, and so Donald told her of his game.
          Then mamma asked Donald if it was quite right to play, when he was put there to think. Of course it wasn’t. He had not thought of it that way. He had grown careless, because of this game, and to-day Uncle Rod had come again and this time Donald had missed going to the city and seeing the new steamer that was to be launched.
          “I want to stay here another hour to-day, mamma, and it’ll be the very last time I’ll have to come. I’m going to think so hard I never can forget.” It was the hardest thing Donald could remember ever happening, losing this trip with Uncle Rob.
          As he promised mamma, it was the last time he ever forgot anything he ought to remember.
          Then the forgettery had a new use. All the children would open the door and put in things they wanted to forget. Bessie put in her hurt feelings, when Alice forgot to come for her on the way to Mabel’s party. Donald put in his anger, when Ben let go of the kite string and it sailed away never to come back. Robert put in his disappointment when papa wanted him to work in the garden instead of going fishing.

    The expression “forgettery” would have been familiar to readers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Plenty of instances are found; let this one suffice :

    Henry Ward Beecher had a saying that he was fond of using, and that was: “Next to a good memory is a good forgettery.” That is true in many things, and especially in regard to those who have blundered and fallen in life and are now trying to make good...
    ex The Herald and Presbyter 85:10 (March 11, 1914) : 21 : link

27 April 2024