Sandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, antique store prowler. Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Become a part of her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story.
Swept Away by the Broom Industry
by Sandra Ardoin
As you can probably guess, as a writer, I’m also a big fan of reading Christian historical romances. I especially enjoy stories with a unique setting or a character with an unusual hobby or career.
As I considered the story for my new novel, I had already given my hero a ministry to inebriates in Pittsburgh. (That fact came out in my Christmas novella The Yuletide Angel.) But when I created an important secondary character for A Reluctant Melody, he needed an occupation.
I consulted a business directory from the time and area in which my story takes place—a fictional North Carolina town in 1892—and became fascinated by all the mentions of broom factories. It didn’t take long to realize I wanted this man to be the proud owner of a factory that produced and sold brooms.
Broom making, in some form, has been around since housecleaning. Homemade brooms of branches and brush, or whatever was handy, were used until 1797 when New Englander Levi Dickenson gifted his wife with one made of sorghum tassels (minus the seeds). Even though he wasn’t satisfied with the fact it fell apart way too easily, his neighbors still insisted he make them one, too. He went on to invent an innovative machine with a foot-treadle for ease in making numerous brooms.
The Shakers improved the process. They used wire rather than heavy twine to bind the material to the handle, used a vise to sew the broom into a flat shape, eliminating the round form and giving it shoulders, and applied the stitching.
Though many of the brooms we purchase today are made of synthetics, some people continue to make them the old-fashioned way with the original types of materials. The brooms of yesterday are now mostly a quaint handcrafted item created by the same process used in the 19th and early 20th centuries and done on antique machines that are over a hundred years old.
I don’t know about you, but handcrafted products thrill me—something someone has spent time creating and loving into being. Below is a video I used when doing my research. It’s a little long (ten minutes), but fun to watch and typical of the way brooms were once made.
For future projects, I’m looking forward to discovering more unusual businesses from days gone by that will make a good occupation for my heroes and/or heroines.
What is the most unique hobby or job you’ve read about in a novel? Did it make you want to learn more about how the work was done?
More about A Reluctant Melody:
Kit Barnes’ alcoholism ruined more lives than his own. Now sober, he wants to make amends by opening a mission for drunkards. But the most suitable location belongs to Joanna Cranston Stewart, a love from his sordid past.
Friends of her late husband blame Joanna for his death. Although eager to flee from the rumors, she will let the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she allows Kit back into her life.
When a blackmailer threatens to reveal Joanna’s long-held secret, will she risk losing everything she owns to Kit … including her heart?
Links for Sandra and her books are in her bio above.
Thanks for stopping by, Sandra. That video was interesting. I love stuff like that.