Creating Pictures with Words
What do you do if you see an interesting, colorful object but don’t know what it is? Today, you can take a photo of it and show it around. You can also research the object on the internet. Within minutes, you may find lots of information about it. In the 1800s, however, the internet did not exist. Cameras were a new invention—and they only took photos in black and white. Back then, many people used words as the only way to capture new and unfamiliar objects. They wrote about these objects in great detail.
In 1853, Rebecca Ketcham traveled west from Ithaca, New York. She paid $150 (about $5,000 today) to join a wagon train making the journey on the Oregon Trail. Ketcham wanted to see all the sights along the way. She was determined to learn, explore, and discover as much as she could. Ketcham kept a detailed diary during the trip. She noted that she wrote it for "friends who may be interested." In one entry, Ketcham used more than 200 words to describe a single purple flower that she could not identify by name.