Who is Miss Abigail?

Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

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Miss Abigail has a collection of over 1,000 classic advice books, spanning from 1822 to 1978 and covering a variety of topics, from love and romance to etiquette and charm. The collection sparked the idea for this site, then a book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which has inspired an off-broadway production of the same name!

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Posts Tagged ‘automobiles’

Invitation for a Drive (1891)

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

I’ve got this pretty beat up book from 1891 called The Business Manual; A Complete Guide in all Mercantile and Legal Transactions and Reference Book for Every Day Use (well used during it’s time, I presume). It covers a wide variety of topics, from how to measure coal, to how to make an ice chest. It also includes handy charts of the weights of cattle and the number of years seeds retain their vitality. It tell business folk of this amazing thing called the “telephone” and describes type-writing. Did you know that “an expert can write from 90 to 100 words a minute and commands a salary of from $10 to $15 a week”?

I loved this section, though, on the “Laws of the Road.” The vehicle of choice that time? Well, the accompanying image says it all:

Laws of the Road

Here’s what the author had to say about driving around at that time:

"The primary law of the road is that all persons using the same must exercise due care to prevent collisions and accidents. No one can claim damages for an injury mainly caused by his own negligence.

Vehicles of every kind, meeting on the highway must keep to the right, if at all possible. When there is no other vehicle near, a driver may use any part of the road he chooses. When two teams are going in the same direction, the one in the lead need not “turn out” if the one in the rear wishes to pass ahead, provided there is room enough at the side to pass by. Every driver is required to use moderation in speed; to keep his carriage, harness, etc., in proper condition, and always to give the right of way to a vehicle with a heavier load than his own.

Riders are not governed by any fixed rules, but are required to use reasonable prudence at all times to prevent accidents. They need less room and can make quicker movements, and are, therefore, not under as well defined rules as vehicles.

Foot-passengers have a right to use the driveway as well as the sidewalk. They must, however, with the driver and rider exercise great care to prevent injury to life and limb while thus walking in, or crossing a public road."

Obviously there were fewer distractions than we have today, but these simple rules could still come in handy.

Once you’ve mastered the road rules, you can send a nice note to a sweetheart to ask her out. This example is from the same book:

Invitation for a Drive

“P P” Card

Friday, February 18th, 2011

P P Card

Time for another Fun Card! Here’s one that might come in handy if you’re going on a long road trip this three-day February weekend. Instead of whining, “but dad! I gotta gooooooo!!!!!” just follow the instructions here to alert your driver of the urgency of the matter.

Special Driver’s Permit

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Special Driver's PermitDid you score a group date with some friends this weekend? Today’s installment of the Lover’s Fun Card Set is one that could come in handy, particularly if you plan on cruising around with a carload of friends who are more into whooping it up, and less into safe driving. No worries about being considered a dullard – just fill in your name and present this to the driver. I’m sure he or she will respect your driving opinions. While we’re at it, here’s a some advice from the site on the topic of automobiles.

This one about “joy-riding to the roadhouse“, from Elinor Glyn, is a favorite of mine.

Good Manners on the Road

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

are you blind?As a reminder to everybody on the road today, here’s a few tips about driving with manners (something a number of people have forgotten about). Please read the following, from a book by William A. Evans titled Everyday Safety. After you’ve done so, please, please be careful and try not to ram into my car. And I promise to be a courteous driver. Thank you.

1952: Good Manners on the Road

In our social and business relations we are taught to be polite, respectful, and courteous. No salesman can be successful by making his customers angry. No boy or girl can be popular if he or she is rude, overbearing, or discourteous. A young man who is wellbred will stand aside for a lady or another gentlemen to enter a doorway ahead of him. We would not think of stepping in front of another person on the sidewalk if there were any danger of bumping into that person. When we do have a collision, on foot, we apologize; we do not say, ‘What’s your name and address? Are you insured? Couldn’t you see me coming? Why didn’t you signal? Are you blind? Don’t you know how to walk?

Isn’t it possible for us to be just as courteous when we are driving as when we are walking? If you think not, what is the reason for your belief? Can’t we hesitate, or slow down, or even stop our cars, if necessary, in order to let another car pass safely? Can’t we stop or reduce our speed in order to give a pedestrian a chance to get out of the way without jumping for his life? Certainly we can do all of these things and more if we are able to control our cars and if we wishto control them. The modern motorcar is very responsive to the driver. With ‘finger tip steering,’ strong, quict-acting brakes, and easy-to-shift transmission gears, there is only one reason why a driver might be discourteous ~ his own carelessness and indifference to the rights and welfare of others. This fault each one of us must be careful to avoid.

Source: Evans, William A. Everyday Safety. Chicago: Lyons and Carnahan, 1952.
~ pp. 241-42 ~

City Driving Manners

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Cissy Chatter ~ Penny PrattleIn these crazy days of road rage and cellular phones, I thought it might be nice to bring you some advice from the esteemed Emily Post, all the way from 1945. I guess it is comforting to know that some things never change.

1945: City Driving Manners

When driving in the city, remember that discourtesy to pedestrians can turn out to be manslaughter. Don’t rush traffic lights. A gentlemen will no more “cheat the lights” than cheat at cards. Don’t fail, at a crossing where the lights have turned against you, to stop far enough back to be sure that you are not blocking the proper path of pedestrians crossing the street. Don’t, if you possibly can help it, run through puddles and splash pedestrians or other cars. Don’t almost run over someone who is trying to signal a bus or a trolley car when a little consideration requires only a few seconds. . . .

We are all made nervous by the driver who keeps looking out all the time, expatiating on the view and paying no attention to what is happening on the road. Or the one who turns around to talk to those on the back seat (who can’t hear what he says because they are so busy praying that the car will stay on the road). Or the one who carelessly lets go of the wheel while he lights a cigarette or screws the windshield up or down, meanwhile letting his car meander toward the ditch or else cut over toward the wrong side of the road.

Another bad-mannered driver is the one in a hurry. Among the thousands of motor accidents listed on the police blotters, at least half are said to be made by people who have not learned to discipline themselves to be on time. The driver, suddenly becoming conscious that he should have left home earlier, flings his good driving manners to the wind, starts weaving in and out of lines, clipping red lights, pushing his way, and taking chances which he would never take if he were not in a hurry!

Certain Bad Manners of Women Drivers

There are, of course, thousands of women drivers who are on every count first-class, but there are certain others who deserve all the criticism that can be given them. Among the worst of these should be put the window-shopper ~ she who crawls along a crowded thoroughfare with her gaze fastened upon the store windows. In a taxi, the other day, an army pilot followed close behind one of these for about twenty blocks. His taxi driver pointed her out. Said he, “Those window-shoppers are the worst we come up against! Why they don’t get killed is God’s mercy; they could never be saved merely by man. When I look ahead and see a woman driving her car with her head turned profile, I give her the widest berth I can.”

A not unfamiliar sight, in the smaller towns, are the stop-to-talkers who park by side and hold long conversations while other cars wait or maneuver their way past the blockade as best they can. There is no reason why Cissy Chatter may not talk to Penny Prattle as long as she chooses, but one of them must draw over close to the curb and wait. The other must park her car in a proper place and then come back to the first car and either stand on the sidewalk or get into the car.

Source: Post, Emily. Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company,1945.
~ pp. 584-85 ~

Travel for Two

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

eat at some lovely spot along the way

Q Dear Miss Abigail:

My boyfriend wants me to go on a trip with him ~ just the two of us. Is it proper?

Signed,
Stepping Out

A Dear Stepping:

Well, dear, I think it depends a lot on what sort of trip he’s planned and exactly how long he plans for you to be away. With this in mind, it is really up to you to decide if you are comfortable going on a trip for two. If you do decide to go, I hope the following excerpt from Everyday Living for Girls helps you with your journey.

1936: What Should You Know About Traveling?

Why travel? Almost everyone likes to travel. It is fascinating pleasure. It is one of the most desirable ways of spending leisure time. New scenes, new people, a different atmosphere; better perspective, lost worries, broader viewpoints, more mellowed understanding; because of these, travel truly re-creates one. There is no better agency of education than travel. It aids one in acquiring culture, with the attending qualities of poise and good taste.

Traveling by train. Train accomodations permit traveling by day coach or parlor car, or for the overnight trip, by Pullman car. Especially for long trips, it is advisable to buy your tickets in advance. The regular fare includes a seat in the day coach. There are additional charges for a chair in the parlor car, a berth, section, or drawing-room in the Pullman car.

The new streamlined trains promise continued popularity for this mode of traveling, and probably greater comfort, convenience, and speed. . . .

Traveling by private motor. If you are invited to go on a trip in a friend’s car, you should offer to pay your share. When several friends plan a trip together they should have a definite agreement about expenses. Though you pay for gasoline, oil, and other items of upkeep on the car, you will want to show your appreciation in some other way. Perhaps a gift for your hostess (something you know she especially likes) will be the thing. Perhaps you can manage a treat of a dinner, or you can take a lunch to eat at some lovely spot along the way.

You should always try to be an agreeable and pleasant traveling companion. If you are in the mood to enjoy the trip and alert to find interest and adventure in the passing scene, this adds to the enjoyment of others. Sportsmanship, the willingness to do what the rest want to do, a sense of humor, and the ability to tell a good story will help make everyone have a good time. Consideration for others, tact, thoughtfulness, lightheartedness, the doing of many little things make the way smooth.

Traveling by plane. Traveling by plane is the quickest means of travel. Plane travel is little more expensive than train travel, and it is prophesied that the airplane soon will be a very common transportation medium, both for pleasure and business.

Traveling by boat. Boat trips are memorable occasions, whether short ones on the Great Lakes and rivers, coastwise trips, or transatlantic voyages.

Dancing, games, carefree hours on deck, and new friends make such vacations most enjoyable. . . .

Relation to other passengers. Whether you travel by air, by rail, by road, or water, you should be well bred and considerate of your fellow passengers always. Your behavior should be the same whether you are going to the next town or across the continent. Do not occupy more space than that for which you have paid. Especially in a train, do not be noisy. If you wish to open a window, ask your seat companion and those near you if it is agreeable to them. If you eat anything, do it as neatly as you do at home.

If a man and woman are together on a train, the woman should precede the man down the aisle. He should open the window for her if she wishes. He should help her remove her coat and settle their luggage. On leaving the train, the man precedes the woman and helps her down the steps.

The unescorted woman of good breeding does not encourage acquaintance with strangers, either men or women. It is understandable that strangers sitting together in the train or diner will perhaps converse in an impersonal way; but one should never let conversation develop into personalities, nor tell one’s intimate life history to casual acquaintances.

One will not let a stranger pay for magazines, candy, sandwiches, or any such thing. A man may suggest that a woman eat lunch or dinner in the dining-car with him. The woman may refuse politely by saying that she is not yet ready. If his company is congenial, she may accept. However, she must pay for her own meal. The end of the journey should terminate the acquaintance. Common sense dictates prudence in contacts with
strangers. 

Source: Van Duzer, Adelaide Laura, et. al. Everyday Living for Girls. Chicago: J. B. Lippincott Company,1936.
~ pp. 434, 437-38, 441-42 ~

Joy-riding to the Roadhouse

Monday, July 12th, 2010

course music and inferior liquorThis selection is from Elinor Glyn’s This Passion Called Love, which was published in 1925. Appearing in a chapter entitled “The Results of Petting and Drinking,” this excerpt has some very grave warnings for the youth (particularly the young ladies) of the 1920s. Personally I find “roadhouses” quite enticing, but I guess I could learn a thing or two from Miss Glyn.

1925: Joy-riding to the Roadhouse

In some respects, the automobile has become a disturbing element in the lives of boys and girls. In years past, courtship progressed at the girl’s home, on lovers’-lane strolls, at parties, dances and the like, while to-day the automobile and good roads enable the young people quickly to reach comparatively distant points of entertainment. Roadhouses and wayside inns have sprung up at places of necessary and desirable remoteness, where the restraints of nearby residents are not available for quelling unruly emotions and passions that follow course music and inferior liquor. So, young girls, unless you have been reared with a happy sense of restraint and the fitness of things, you endanger your peace of mind and your good repute by frequenting roadhouses in the company of casual male companions.

True it is that parents are much to blame for a certain slackness in the training and observation of their children. Father and mother, with their car, cannot always expect daughter and her friend to be satisfied to motor quietly about with them. If the parents are too often joy-riding alone themselves, they can hardly expect daughter to remain at home looking over the latest styles or trying out the newest fox-trot.

And, young girls, if you must joy-ride, insist that your escort return you home at an early hour. Do not frequent roadhouses where they serve liquor. Even though you may not drink yourself, you will be credited with having done so. In these days of abominable bootleg poison and lax standards, you may regret to the end of your days the moment you began drinking. Liquor is not for the young. Your blood is fresh and vigorous enough to give you all the stimulus you need. You are naturally vivacious. Impressions are new. You can have simply wonderful times without the assistance of liquor. Spirits will deaden your sense, will lull to sleep your caution, will lead you gradually and unknowingly and pleasantly to indiscretions that your later awakening will horribly contemplate. Heed not the taunts and sneers of your male escort or any other of the ladies of the party who may be indulging in liquor ~ the men may wish you to drink for a purpose, while it cuts the pride of the other girls to have you refrain. Such companions are not your friends ~ they will injure you, not help you.

Source: Glyn, Elinor. This Passion Called Love. Auburn, N.Y.: The Authors’ Press, 1925.
~ pp. 24-26 ~

1924: Road Courtesy

Thursday, December 7th, 2006


I must be having a mid-life crisis. I became obsessed with a car (yes, a car) and just had to have it. So, traded in my trusty 2001 VW Golf (a moment of silence please) and negotiated a pretty good deal on a silver Madza3 hatchback. So now that I’m out on the road with it, traversing the streets of suburban and urban D.C., I ask my fellow driver to mind your manners while on the road. The following excerpt is from the 1924 booklet Etiquette in Public, written by early twentieth-century etiquette goddess Lillian Eichler.

~~
If courtesy on the road were made traditional, if good nature and good-will were expected of every motorist, is it assuming too much to imagine a time when rudeness on the road will be as rare as it now is in social contact? Certainly when motorists expect courtesy of one another, as guests do in a drawing room, it will be forthcoming.

And after all, by its very nature, conduct on the highway is immeasurably more important than the surface conventions of the drawing room; for here we find that not only are courtesy and kindliness of spirit involved, but life itself. If a man is interested in conversation, witty, agreeable — we can find it in our hearts to forget that he never rises when a lady enters a room. But if a motorist misses our heel by a fraction of an inch, we cannot forgive him, no matter how agreeable a chap he may be otherwise.
~~

So do you think Ms. Eichler would be pleased with our tailgating, speed-loving, cell-phone talking society today? She probably would have expected more by now, with so many years of driving under our belts since she wrote this.

1953: Driver Safety

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

The other night it was raining pretty hard, and while I was sitting in my living room watching my beloved TIVO, I heard some sirens (not uncommon as I’ve got a firehouse and hospital within a few blocks) get closer and closer, and then suddenly a dramatic crunch. I ran out onto the front porch and saw a large EMT truck – something between a firetruck and an ambulance – stopped a few houses up, with people tumbling out, cursing. Apparently they’d skidded off the road and up over a curb, landing in a median that happened to have a couple of large boulders, which stopped the truck in its path. Luckily, everyone appared to be ok and the vehicle was gone by morning. I just hope wherever it was headed had a backup!

Anyway, the road curves in front of my house and people drive too fast, so I’d been expecting something like this to happen. And having just read about a new study out by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, traffic safety has been on my mind. I’m happy to say I don’t drive a whole lot during the week, so I miss commuters putting on makeup in their cars and reading the paper or checking their email while driving (egads!).

I have a few safety-related books so decided to look up what were the cause of accidents in earlier, less-technologically advanced days. Here’s a description from the 1953 book for for junior high kids titled Safety Challenges You (Chicago: Beckley-Cardy Company):

~~
It is always important… that a driver be free from physical defects that may interfere with good driving. Reports to the National Safety Council from state traffic authorities showed that in a recent year seven per cent of drivers involved in fatal accidents had bodily defects and ten per cent were asleep or overtired. Defective hearing, poor eyesight, and illness were listed as the principal bodily defects. The first two can usually be corrected, and keeping physically fit is a safeguard against illness.

The figures given above do not include physical and mental unfitness due to alcohol. While not all accident reports include this information, the picture is too plain for anyone to ignore.
~~

While sleepiness and alcohol are a constant danger even today, this whole business about illness and bodily defects doesn’t seem to be an issue any longer. Unless you count Blackberry addictions as an illness.