Bernhard emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania and later moved to St. Louis, Missouri. After hearing of the gold discovery, he traveled via the Isthmus of Panama to Placer County in 1852. Like many other gold seekers, he turned to a profession other than gold mining. He acquired a teaming business, transporting goods.
His wife Rosa joined him in Auburn a few years later.
After purchasing the estate in 1868 Bernhard established himself as a fruit grower. Apples, pears and figs were among the many different fruits grown there. He also utilized an existing vineyard on the property to make wine and brandy. Half of the vineyard produced table grapes. He built a stone wine cellar in 1874 and added a processing building in 1881.
The parlor may appear similar to your “living room,” but it was a formal space for guests. Visitors were entertained in this room, and during the Victorian period, a parlor decorated with items from nature was very fashionable.
How do you decorate with nature? People used fabrics embroidered with flowers, wallpaper with plants, landscape paintings, animal statues, seashells, and taxidermy. Popular during the 19th century, taxidermy is stuffing and preserving dead animals. Have you ever seen taxidermy?
The family would also use this room to display their finest trinkets and souvenirs.
This was not a room for children to play in. Children may be invited to sit quietly for guests or provide music, but they would most likely be forbidden from the room aside from cleaning.
The Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901.
This period is known for the Industrial Revolution and vast social changes.
The Bernhard home was originally built in 1851 as the Traveler’s Rest. In the downstairs bedroom of the Museum you can see the original wooden floors from the hotel period. Imagine walking where miners walked during the Gold Rush! This is also a room where you can imagine the realities of living in a home without running water or electricity. Without these modern conveniences, more chores were necessary for simple tasks. Washing up or using the bathroom was not as easy as walking to the bathroom.
Children would be expected to fetch water from the pump to fill each person’s water basin. This was used as a sink.
Children would also be expected to empty the chamber pots (a porcelain pot kept under the bed for nighttime toilet needs). Without a bathroom in the house, there were two options for a toilet: the outhouse (outside) or the chamber pot (inside).
What is a chamber pot? These pots were often a medium sized, porcelain pot with a lid, that was kept under the bed. Before indoor plumbing, the outhouse was the primary toilet. But if it was the middle of the night or if a person could not get to the outhouse, the chamber pot was kept under the bed for easy access.
While fetching water and emptying chamber pots were important morning chores, there was always more to do. Children, from the age of 5 and up, worked together to perform a variety of work on the farm.
Older siblings might first attend to their youngest brothers and sisters. Once everyone was ready for the day, beds would need to be made, floors swept, animals cared for, food prepared, dishes washed, and any number of other tasks depending on whether it was harvest season, or time for school.
After work on the farm was completed, or students returned from school, many of the same chores would need to be completed again.
While the farm produced fruits, vegetables, and livestock to provide income, the farmer also raised a garden to provide food for the family. Children were expected to help maintain the garden, before gathering its bounty for the kitchen, and assisting in preparing meals.
A typical chore was churning butter. Many farm families harvested fruits and vegetables, slaughtered livestock, and prepared breads and other baked goods. Butter was not bought at a store but made at home. After milking the cow, the milk would sit in a shallow pan until the cream rose to the top. The cream was collected, put into a churn, and agitated with a paddle until the yellow fat – which makes up the butter – separated from the buttermilk.
The butter was pressed into a wooden mold, and the buttermilk saved for baking or cooking.
The kitchen at the Bernhard Museum may look different than your kitchen at home, but a variety of the appliances are the same – just a very early version! The stove was wood burning, requiring a constant supply of wood and careful attention.
An ice box predates the refrigerator. Built out of wood, insulation, and tin, this cabinet kept food cool.
A sink is hidden under a tin countertop, but with no running water, children would need to fetch water to wash the dishes.
The Dining Room
Compare this table to where and how you eat dinner. Do you have a room or table just for meals? Do you use glass plates and metal silverware? What kind of napkins do you use?
Everything on this table is meant to be reused. The plates and silverware would be washed, dried, put away, and polished. The napkins are fabric and would be used every day. At the end of the week, they would all be washed.
The butter dish, condiment jars, pickle castor, and sugar bowl would also need to be washed and polished. Lastly, the tablecloth would need to be cleaned and ironed. Children were expected to sit quietly at the table, eat, and practice good manners. At the end of the meal, they would be responsible for helping with washing up.
The Sitting Room
At the end of a long day on the farm, a child could expect time to relax. Unlike the formal and highly decorated parlor, the sitting room allowed the family a space to visit with one another. Musical instruments, books, and other items offered entertainment. Smaller projects like cross- stitch and sewing might also be completed in the sitting room.
Despite the number of chores children had to complete, there was still time for play. Many toys on the farm were hand-made, like button-spinners, dolls, and wooden figures. Other items, like the stereoscope, were purchased.
The “Virtual Reality” headset of the 19th century, the stereoscope held a card with two nearly identical photographs.
When the eyepiece was held up to the face, the pictures appeared as one, three-dimensional image.
To learn more about daily activities on a 19th century farm, check out our activity pages on the student resources page.