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The Melungeons are described by those who study such things as a 'tri-racial isolate'. They're a group of people of different ethnicities who have intensified their bloodline by not venturing far from where they were born and raised. Before I started my research, I tried to recall where they tend to be found. Part of me thought somewhere in America, but I had doubts because that unique moniker had me wondering if they were of a more exotic locale, like Bulgaria or Peru.

Part of what drew me to this topic is the word itself. It looks intriguing, all those letters jumbled together in a unique way. And when you say it and hear it, it had a woven quality, meshing together very much like the ethnic origins of the people themselves.

The Melungeons are described by those who study such things as a 'tri-racial isolate'. They're a group of people of different ethnicities who have intensified their bloodline by not venturing far from where they were born and raised. Before I started my research, I tried to recall where they tend to be found. Part of me thought somewhere in America, but I had doubts because that unique moniker had me wondering if they were of a more exotic locale, like Bulgaria or Peru.

I was right the first time. The Melungeons are typically found in Appalachia where eastern Tennessee and Kentucky border Western Virginia. The 'tri-racial' term comes into play because they are theorized to be a mix of African American, Native American, and European American. They tend to have dark hair (often straight), dark eyes, and swarthy skin.

Not everyone agrees it is the African American and Native American cultures that are responsible for the Melungeons' darker physical features. Some suggest Portuguese, Black Dutch, Turks, Sephardic Jews, even Phoenician bloodlines may be responsible. Basically, if you were ever a sailor and may have shipwrecked on the Mid-Atlantic Coast in the 1600s, there is probably a Melungeon theory about you.

The simplest explanation is often the correct one, and the simplest is that early settlers who came to America as indentured servants, and therefore free people (as opposed to slaves), intermarried. Over time, their offspring became a challenge to identify precisely as one race or another. As time passed and laws shifted, claiming African American as your ethnic group became less attractive. When slavery became more widespread in the Mid-Atlantic and elsewhere, it was powerful motivation for those of mixed race to self-identify as something other than African (such as Native American or Portuguese). Other laws and cultural conventions contributed to this confusion.

  • In some cultures, children claim the ethnic group of their mother, regardless of what their father contributed to their DNA. So a child of a white mother and a non-white father would identify as white.
  • Bureaucracy intervened in the 1700s for tax reasons, basically trying to close a loophole by insisting anyone of mixed race could no longer identify as Native American which left African American as the only other option. They got a higher tax rate on African Americans, you see.
  • Flash forward one hundred years when slavery was going full blast, and they put the clamps on self-identifying by requiring you figure out some math to validate your ethnicity. Anyone who was less than 1/8 non-white was allowed to identify as white.
  • In the 20th century, some states including Virginia espoused the 'one drop' rule, reversing the 1/8 standard by saying anyone with one drop of African American blood was considered African American.
  • On top of all this, add laws that prevented marriage between different races. Mixed race peoples often intermarried to punitive measures. It was just easier.

The people now referred to as Melungeons did not come to be called so until around the 1800s. The word itself has some mixed etymology, which is only appropriate. The phrase mal engin appears in a 16th century poem, translating to 'ill intent'. But I like this other theory better: that it comes from the Angolan word malungu or malungo meaning companion, often used to refer to fellow shipmates and seen in Portuguese records. This theory meshes nicely with the colonization and melting pot image of early America and therefore is my favorite. Highly scientific.

Members of the Goins family

The Melungeon culture is not something banished to a few posts online. They still exist in their corner of Appalachia. The surnames Gibson, Collins, Riddle, and others often can trace their lines to Melungeon origins. Family tree researchers generate many leads and interesting theories for your Googling pleasure. If you have relatives from that part of the country, you might have some Phoenician blood. Who knew?

This post first appeared during my participation in the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge.

The birth of the automobile industry reminds me of other business booms.

Mr. and Mrs. Pandolfo show off their baby

Somebody gets a great idea, or has some success, and suddenly everybody jumps on the bandwagon, hoping to cash in before another fad takes its place. History, and lots of barns you see on American Picker, is/are littered with the carcasses of the cars that didn't make it. The Pan Car falls into this category.

The Pan Car concept was conceived by a fellow named Samuel Connor Pandolfo. As a traveling salesman, Pandolfo felt his ideas for making a travel-friendly vehicle would be a success. The Mississippi-born Pandolfo planned to locate his manufacturing plant in St. Cloud, Minnesota, northwest of the Twin Cities. St. Cloud had easy access to two things a car factory needed: plenty of iron ore to build them with (they don't call that area the Iron Range for nothing); and a way to ship them to market (via rail to the shipping hub at Duluth).

Pandolfo did a 1917 version of Kickstarter and hit the road selling inexpensive shares of stock to fund his dream. He threw the mother of all barbecues to celebrate the prototype - and sell stock. He tried marketing by mail - to sell stock. He sold a lot of stock (around $10 million by some estimates), but car factories cost a bundle to build and run. Between car sales and stock sales, he just wasn't able to cover his expenses. Some considered his business plan something of a swindle. (I feel the pain. Ask me about my shares of Excelsior Henderson motorcycle stock.) Some say Pandolfo was a victim of auto and other big business conspiracies to block his success. He was convicted of mail fraud and did some time.

I'm likin' the two-tone

Fewer than 1000 Pan Cars were sold before the factory was forced to shut down. Today there are only about seven Pan Cars known to exist. A dedicated group of Pan Car enthusiasts scours the nearby countryside in search of overlooked Pan Cars, but usually must be satisfied with bits and pieces which they have painstakingly rebuilt over the years. The Pan Car price started at $1,000. Today, if you could find one, depending on the condition it could be worth five figures. How much, I don't know. I'm in the process of reaching out to some folks who can give me a number. In the meantime, I'll continue to ponder on this flash in the Pan.

This post originally appeared in the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge

This post originally appeared during my participation in the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge. 

Here's where all my time wasted spent playing Words With Friends pays off. Stumped for a topic for a troublesome letter like Q and what do I do - gnash my teeth and grub around in the closet for my hair shirt? Nope! I hit up the cheater Scrabble page and find a Q word to riff on. And this one is a dandy.

Scams via infomercials and email are just the latest iteration of snake oil salesmen/women. They have a fine tradition in print media long before the Internet came along. Preying on an unsuspecting and uninformed public is their stock in trade. Take for example:

I don't know about you, but I'm totally not wearing anything on my face that has the word 'toilet' in its name.


Decorative Page Dividers - ClipArt Best

And where was this little beauty when I was looking for a topic for P??

Decorative Page Dividers - ClipArt Best

Know someone who drinks too much booze? Get them addicted to cocaine instead!

Decorative Page Dividers - ClipArt Best

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'hat hair'

Decorative Page Dividers - ClipArt Best

So let me get this straight: it's advertised for a male condition; and, you 'buy it for your husband'? Genius! Probably comes in a brown paper wrapper to boot.

Decorative Page Dividers - ClipArt Best

I vote we bring back both the condition known as 'hysteria', as well as this cure for it. Are you with me?

I see quackery advertised every day online. It's a dead giveaway if they promise something in X number of easy steps, or magical results if you share with everyone you know. But none of them come close to being this artful, or this funny (even though they didn't intend to be).  Thanks, quacks, for the best laugh of the day.

Fun page dividers from clipart.co

Photo by Daxis on Flickr

My home town of Dallas, Texas often ranks high in those contests judging the beauty of the downtown skyline. I may be biased, but I agree. One of my favorite features is the Bank of America building with its stylish bright green outline. At the time it debuted in 1985 it was a bold choice, outlining the largest building in town in what one could describe, literally and accurately, as screaming neon. Many more buildings have sprung up over the last thirty-odd years, but it still easily holds its own with its distinctive signature color.

Technically speaking, the green glow resulted from argon gas, not neon. It was updated to LED technology in 2013, which gives the option of changing colors for special occasions.

The Bank of America building outline and others like it are the descendants of the original neon lighting. Neon gas was discovered in 1898. It was available in limited amounts until a Frenchman called Georges Claude figured out how to produce it in quantity. There are unverified reports that it was one of the wonders displayed at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, which I discussed in a recent blog post. One of Claude's employees saw the potential for neon in the sign business. Red neon advertisements became all the rage in Paris and elsewhere.

I won't pretend I have the mental chops to fully understand how neon signs work, but it appears to be a function of applying electricity to a glass tube that has been filled with gas. Originally, neon created a red glow. It is still used for red, orange, and some pink tones. Cooler colors like blues and greens are created using argon, mercury, and sometimes a special paint coating in the glass tubing.

America's first neon sign was initially thought to be commissioned by Earle C. Anthony for his Packard auto dealership at 10th and Hope streets in Los Angeles in 1923. Researchers have cast doubt on this claim, however. Regardless of its birth year, the Los Angeles sign definitely caused a stir, resulting in traffic jams as people marveled at the 'liquid fire'. Soon businesses nationwide were clamoring to install their own glowing letters.

Perhaps no city embraced the new colorful signage more fondly than Las Vegas. As

Las Vegas, where all good neon (and argon) goes to die

the technology advanced, blinking and waving and diving and dancing signs populated the marketing landscape. Even if you're not into gambling, it's worth a visit to cruise The Strip and bask in its neon glow. While you're there, give a nod to the noble gas neon - lighting up our nights since 1898.

This post originally appeared during my participation in the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge. 

While I was researching my latest book, The Dala Horse, I read in Charles H. Russell's wonderful biography of Elise Waerenskjold that she and her husband had

Temperance as 'holy war' Currier & Ives lithograph 1874 Library of Congress

attempted to form a temperance society after they immigrated to Texas from Norway. They came to Texas in 1847. By 1855 they determined some temperance was in order.

Their guidelines were a little softer than the zero tolerance policies embraced later. Apparently some of the 'Texwegians' enjoyed a nip of brandy a little too often. And who could blame them - life was tough out there on the prairie! Elise's proposed temperance society aimed to eliminate drinking to excess, rather than eliminating drinking altogether. Beer and wine consumption was considered so harmless, it wasn't even included in their plans. But there was a disagreement how to handle hard liquor, or 'spirits'. Some felt it should not be allowed at all. It became clear this stance was a deal-killer, so in the interest of compromise, all agreed some hard liquor could be imbibed, as long as not to excess.

When I think of temperance, I envision early 20th century women in long skirts and big hats hoisting homemade placquards as they march on their local Main Street. Turns out I was only off by about a hundred years. By the 1830s it was already a thing, with movements documented in America, England, Australia, and New Zealand. There were societies, and songs, and pledges, and everything! Early temperance groups rarely pushed for government regulation of alcohol. Rather, they encouraged individuals to take personal responsibility. The Sunday pulpit and the local newspaper were the main vehicles of imparting this message.

Initial temperance movements focused on exactly that: tempering one's habits. Inevitably a splinter group formed, pushing to completely ban consumption. This view was labeled 'teetotalism'. Growing up in the south, I often heard non-drinkers described as teetotalers.

Let's digress for a moment and explore the origins of this word. There is a rather unkind anecdote suggesting it arose from one fellow's unfortunate speech impediment when trying to express that he was t-t-totally against drinking alcohol. Another theory is the repetition of the T in Total - "Tee Total" - adds emphasis to the speaker's strong belief in the philosophy.

The temperance movement gained momentum until it hit a speed bump in the U.S. during the Civil War. Temperance is all well and good, you see, until we need some taxes to pay for our war. Then we need to let the alcohol flow so we can collect the duties on it.

After the Civil War ended, and the need for alcohol duty income waned, the temperance movement resumed and became as powerful as it ever had been - until World War I. Ironically, rather than being seen as a way to generate tax income, alcohol production was now viewed as a frivolous waste of resources.The temperance societies thus got an unexpected boost in the early 20th century when alcohol supplies dwindled.

Supporters of temperance saw an opportunity. They pressed their advantage. Groups of women thronged outside of bars, shaming the occupants by singing hymns at the top of their voices. They staged the temperance version of sit-ins, but instead of sitting, they poured out or otherwise destroyed enormous quantities of (perfectly good) alcohol. There was even something called the Whiskey War in Ohio. Extreme Teetotaler Carrie Nation was known for busting up many a whiskey keg with her fearsome hatchet.

These stunts had the desired effect. What could be seen as their biggest success to date resulted occurred in the U.S. in 1920 with the passage of 18th amendment. This outright ban of alcohol sales at the federal level became known as the Prohibition Era. Other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Finland, and Iceland also experimented with varying degrees of prohibition, such as reducing the alcohol content of some beverages, and mandating earlier closing times for bars.

Alas, it was not meant to last. People got downright cranky about not having any booze. The temperance movement fell out of favor. Citing rising crime rates related to black market (think Untouchables which btw is a pretty good movie if you haven't seen it), as well as a negative effect on the economy (again with the taxes or lack thereof), Prohibition ended in 1933. This was not the end of temperance; just the end of it being supported via national law.

And so the pendulum swings the other way

Despite its disappointing defeat with the repeal of Prohibition, temperance has rocked on in some sectors. Many religions have a long history of banning alcohol, without any help from the federal government. Muslims and Mormons come to mind. Growing up as a Southern Baptist, I can report that we were expected to abstain (other religions used real wine during their communions; Baptists used grape juice).  In the American South, abstention was often the rule rather than the exception. Areas of my hometown of Dallas, Texas, were 'dry', meaning no alcohol was sold there. And many counties throughout the state were dry as well. But economics will out: many of these formerly dry areas have become 'wet' over the last twenty years or so. And when these areas become wet, their economies really boom.

In hindsight, it appears the heavy hand of government intervention that resulted in the Prohibition era was perhaps not the best solution for encouraging temperance. The early adopters had the right of it: let each of us govern ourselves. Enjoy responsibly.

This post first appeared as part of my participation in the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge.

"Chief Tuscumbia Greets the Dickson Family" Jack McMillen

I'm a sucker for art on a grand scale, like murals on the side of multi-story buildings, and the artist who wraps entire structures in fabric. I don't see many fabric-wrapped structures in my travels, but I do see murals fairly often. And when I do, I always think of the WPA, whether they're responsible or not.

The WPA, known as the Works Progress or Works Projects Administration, was, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest innovations of FDR's New Deal program during the Depression Era. The WPA operated from 1935-1943. It was intended to put at least one household member to work in every household that had no one working. Even better: if the unemployed person had no skills, they learned one as part of this program - no excuses!

"Themes of the National Parks" David McCosh

The lion's share of the budget for the WPA went for construction projects, like building roads and painting buildings and so forth. But a small sliver of the budget was earmarked for creating art in many forms: paintings, books, music, performance. And the beauty of the program was that it sought out artists who were unemployed, so experimental artists such as Jackson Pollock found support and recognition they otherwise may not have gotten.

The WPA program ended when the nation reached its goal of full employment in 1943. By then, millions of people had benefited from WPA programs, including an estimated 10,000 artists. And of course, millions more of us benefit today, enjoying the fruits of their labors.

As I was researching this post, naturally I wondered if there were any extant WPA projects near where I live. Turns out there are tons of public works-type projects in South Carolina - buildings, roads, bridges, etc. But I was delighted to find a New Deal painting exists in a privately owned but vacant buildin

"Peach Orchard" Irving A. Block

g in the town nearest to me (we live out in the boonies). It's called "Peach Orchard" by Irving A. Block. So get to Googling - there might be a WPA beauty on a wall near you 🙂

Fun Fact: Why peaches, you might wonder? Why not grits, or collards? Turns out South Carolina is the #2 peach producing state in the USA, second only to California. Take that, Georgia!

This post originally appeared during my participation in the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge.

It's not the first time, nor will it be the last, that I exhort you to visit the New York Public Library's stupendous online digital collection, home of wonder, lore and inspiration for writers (and fellow history nerds!) everywhere. Today we will explore the entertainment style known as Vaudeville, featuring images generously shared with us by the NYPL.

Vaudeville soft shoe dance act Doyle and Dixon

The origin of the word 'Vaudeville' is in dispute. Its roots are most likely French, if that final syllable is any indication. The Vaudeville style consists of a pastiche of several different acts bound into a single session of entertainment. There might be some comedy, some dancing, some acrobatics, maybe an animal act, or some recitation. Vaudeville was specifically geared toward more genteel audiences - no booze served, no cursing, no naughty bits. The bawdier stuff was left to all male venues such as saloons, and burlesque shows.

Fun fact: the custom of referring to off-color behavior such as nudity or cursing as 'blue' originated in the Vaudeville era. The B. F. Keith theater circuit was the Amazon of Vaudeville - they dominated the industry. Mr. Keith had very strict guidelines for the contracted performers. Anyone caught violating said guidelines would likely receive a dreaded blue envelope containing strong suggestions on censoring that part out of their act. If they didn't comply, they were censored - fired, cut, kicked to the curb. The blue envelope was the predecessor of the 20th century pink slip.

Variety acts had been around since jesters learned to play a lute in addition to

Vaudeville era magician Howard Thurston

singing and telling jokes. The Vaudeville style of variety shows began to flourish toward the end of the 1880s when theater manager Tony Pastor got the bright idea to carve out a niche for himself. He decided to literally clean up the acts, offering family-friendly entertainment in his shows. It was a huge hit. Two enterprising businessmen took things to the next level when they came up with the idea of forming a chain of theaters and contracting with performers to present the same show at various theaters in the chain. This innovation helped performers by giving them a longer contractual period (weeks or months rather than one night stands) and thus more stability. It also benefited the venue managers by simplifying the booking process and likely reduced their cost per act when hiring for multiple dates.

Vaudeville began to wane in the early 1900s when radio, television, and movie technology emerged. Audiences loved the new forms of entertainment and couldn't get enough of it. Gradually the grand old vaudeville theaters installed screens and projectors and live acts took a back seat. The last Vaudeville acts closed their doors in the 1940s. But the concept of offering variety persisted into the movie era. Just ask anyone who was a kid in the 1940s what they got to see for a nickel at the Saturday matinee. It was probably a couple of cartoons, a news reel, and a main feature.

Two of the experimental dance group Three Little Maids

Many entertainers in the 1930s and 1940s got their start in Vaudeville. Judy Garland, Harry Houdini, Will Rogers, and The Three Stooges come to mind. Some famously did not make the transition, immortalized by the Nora Desmond character in the movie Sunset Boulevard. Remnants the of Vaudeville format remain in more modern entertainment classics such as The Carol Burnett Show and, more recently, late night talk shows, which often intersperse multiple guests of various talents with musical interludes. Like Nora Desmond, Vaudeville may have been left in the dust. But variety is still very much the spice of entertainment life.

This post first appeared as part of my participation in the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge.

All that alliteration leaves me tingly

Ran across an interesting article reviewing a new book about dictators here. With tags including 'villain', 'lurid', 'perverse', and 'evil', how could I resist? Egotism, narcissism, torture, genocide, welfare moms - this story (and one presumes the book as well) has it all!

But what really caught my eye was this quote from the author being interviewed.

As a discipline, history is fuzzy and woefully unscientific. History is part gossip, part propaganda, part hearsay, and part theory, often supported by unsubstantiated attribution or outright fabrication.

Eureka! At last I have discovered the root of my fascination with a discipline widely associated with boredom by the majority of my fellow bipeds. But it says right there on the Internet that history has gossip, lies, it's unscientific, and it's fuzzy! What's not to like??

If you think about it this way, your average history class is basically National Enquirer minus the eyes-blacked-out photos of celebrity cellulite. This is a definite plus IMO. Some of the stories they are still shoveling in History 101 are right up there with Enquirer's bread and butter: Bigfoot/UFO/Elvis sightings.

Italian Explorer First European To New World!

Yeah, this guy Christopher Columbus had a pretty big day back in 1492. It used to be taught that he 'discovered America', which is grossly misleading. Not only was he NOT the first (as author Patrick Huyghe points out, in many ways, Columbus was LAST - the Norse were def here before him, as well as possibly the Celts, Chinese, Polynesians, and Libyans. Yes, Libyans.), he never actually set foot on the continental US. The Americas (Central and South) and the Caribbean, yes. The good ol' U. S. of A., nope. BTW in addition to the more recently accepted historical facts about the discovery of the New World, there are plenty of, shall we say, interesting theories not quite reaching 'proved' status. Check out the controversy surrounding the Kensington Runestone, or the academic practices (or lack thereof) of historian Barry Fell, for starters. Gossip! Hearsay! Propaganda!

English Settle North America, Pilgrim-Style

The Thanksgiving myth is beloved, mainly due to the ridiculous feed so many Americans put on to celebrate it. The two days off work and the shopping frenzy known as Black Friday cannot be overlooked. But what exactly are we celebrating? Yes, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, had a rough go, and likely would have died if it were not for the help of the local Native American population. But they weren't the first European settlers. That would have been the Norse, the Dutch, and even other English before them. They didn't bring civilization to the wilderness of the Americas (ref Inca, Aztec, Maya). And that lovely first Thanksgiving meal did not result in a future of champagne and giggles between Europeans and Native Americans.  There wasn't even any green bean casserole!

Justice Done As Nut-Job Harper's Ferry Attacker Hanged

Who needs Instagram?

What's the first thing you think of when you think of John Brown (if you do think of him at all?)? I bet it is one of three things: his appearance (wild-eyed, unkempt ZZ-Top beard); his mental state (bat-sh** crazy); with his politics (abolitionist) a distant third.

If so, the historic sensationalism that rules the textbook industry has done its job, feeding you the headlines that will sell papers/keep students awake and ignoring the deeper context that will result in broader understanding of historical events. Quoting James Loewen, author of one of my favorite books Lies My Teacher Told Me and by which portions of this post are inspired, "From 1890 to about 1970, John Brown was insane. Before 1890 he was perfectly sane, and after 1970 he regained his sanity." Meaning of course that Brown's mental state was interpreted differently based on who was telling the tale. But isn't that what sensational Enquirer-type journalism is all about, spin? Was Brown crazy, or was he the Johnny Smith of his day?

So history lovers everywhere, rejoice! Just about anyone in the field can write just about whatever they want about just about any topic, and if they give it enough spin, it will start to sound legit. It's our job to sniff this stuff out! History isn't boring if you stop accepting it all as gospel and start giving everything you read the Royal Stink-eye. Gossip! Lies! And it's fuzzy!

This post first appeared in February 2013.

Recently I was down the glorious Library of Congress digital collection rabbit hole, looking for something to post relevant to the Memorial Day holiday. Look what I found:

It's an illustration from Puck Magazine from Memorial Day 1899. In case you can't read the small print, its caption says 'Three Veterans Under One Flag'. History nerd that I am, naturally I wondered which three wars. Just from looking at the uniform of the Colonel Sanders character on the left and doing the math, I figured he was from the Civil War. But the other two had me stumped. Mexican-American War, maybe? Guy on the right, no clue (fail!). Had to research it. And here's the scoop:

Colonel Sanders is indeed from the Confederate Army of the American Civil War (1861-1865). Interesting that they were generous enough to consider him as 'under one flag'.

Cowboy Bob in the middle is from the Spanish-American War (1898). This is the war infamous for its slogan 'Remember the Maine', which referred to the sinking of a U.S. naval ship in Havana harbor. It's the one some historians theorize was instigated by decidedly biased coverage in the Hearst newspaper empire. The one featuring Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders? The one where we helped Cuba gain independence from Spain? I wouldn't blame you for forgetting. It only lasted ten weeks.

The third guy on the right is a Union veteran, also from the Civil War. That's where they got me - I was thinking it needed to be three different wars.

By Memorial Day 1899 there were three other wars fought by American soldiers that could have supplied images of veterans for this illustration: the American Revolution (1765-1783); the War of 1812 (1812-1815); and the Mexican-American War (1846-1848).

BTW The Library of Congress has loads more entertaining illustrations from Puck Magazine. Puck was published from 1871-1918. It was a combination of humor and political satire - think BuzzFeed meets The Daily Show. This particular illustration is by artist Udo J. Keppler.

 

Originally published May 2016

Cyrillic monogrammy of the letter Y circa 1902

Branding is all the rage now. Business owners from solopreneurs to megacorporations are encouraged to come up with a visual symbol to represent ourselves to the world.

The concept of branding may seem like a recent development, but it's hardly new. Literal branding of livestock (as well as human property, unfortunately) has been practiced for thousands of years. It was a simple and effective way of denoting ownership and discouraging theft. (Best not to ask how the brandee felt about it.) The subset of branding known as monogramming, or combining letters to form a new symbol, also is nothing new. Ancient coins were marked in this way to denote place of origin. Artists also found it a handy shorthand in signing their work.

Technically, it's not a monogram unless there's more than one letter represented.

The monogram became associated with the upper classes because long ago, the upper classes were the only ones who had any property worth protecting! Gradually the trend filtered down through the various layers of nobility. By Victorian times, monogramming was all the rage among the non-royal wealthy. As sewing skills were widespread among the middle and lower classes prior to the industrial age, monogramming became an inexpensive way to add a touch of class.

Tennis legend Roger Federer is the master of his brand as well as the court

These days monograms are everywhere, from the fingertip towels in Aunt Hattie's guest bath to the toned torsos of sports superstars. Maybe it's time for you to get on the branding train. If you're stumped for a brand logo, get back to the basics and use your initials. Just pick a cool font, avoid embarrassing letter combinations, and let your initials represent.

This post originally appeared during my participation in the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge.