Let’s Have A Good Old-Fashioned Birthday Party

birthday girl

Laura Ingalls Wilder at the dedication of the Wilder Library in Mansfield.


One hundred and fifty years ago this February, something very special happened to the world. At the time of its occurrence, however, only a few friends and family members knew about it. The two people in the world that were the most excited about this special event were 31-year-old Charles Ingalls and his 27-year-old wife, Caroline Ingalls. Two-year-old Mary Amelia Ingalls may have also been a bit excited too, because the special thing that had happened was the birth of her baby sister, Laura Elizabeth Ingalls.

Beloved author of the Little House books, Laura Ingalls Wilder, was born in a little log house near the town of Pepin, Wisconsin, on February 7, 1867. This year, in celebration of her 150th birthday, our blog will be featuring a number of posts about Laura’s birthdaysthe ones she writes about in the Little House series as well as the ones she doesn’t write about. These posts will give you a taste of what birthdays and celebrations were like for kids growing up on the prairie the good old Pioneer Days.

To start us off, let’s take a look at some basic facts about birthday parties in the 1800s.

According to an article entitled “A Brief History of Birthday Parties,” birthday parties in the Victorian era were often “large and extravagant” events thrown by the parents on behalf of the birthday kid. These sorts of birthday parties required enough room for a ball and the help of plenty of servants. It wasn’t exactly your average “pin the tale on the donkey” sort of party. (Check out this article for more information about the history of birthday parties.)

Of course, Laura and her family wouldn’t have been able to pull off birthday parties like these extravagant Victorian parties. But how about birthday cakes and the birthday song? Would Laura at least have had those? Well, according to a Huffington Post article, although the birthday song wouldn’t become a thing until the 1920s, birthday cakes were around by the time of Laura’s childhood. In fact, late 18th century Germany was the originator of the whole contemporary birthday-cake-with-candles tradition. (Take a look at this article for more birthday trivia.) But birthday cakes in the Little House books just doesn’t seem to be much of a thing. If that’s the case, then, what exactly did Laura do for her birthdays?

In order to find that out, we’ll just have to look and see what Laura said herself. Come back next time and join us as we take a look at Laura’s birthday in Little House in the Big Woods.


9 comments on “Let’s Have A Good Old-Fashioned Birthday Party

  1. Loved your article — a group of us recently wrote and published a book with party/birthday event ideas from each of Laura’s books.

  2. How interesting! Looking forward to learning more about birthday celebrations during Laura’s lifetime.

    • Ann says:

      Northern Prairie Arts is excited to be a part of the Celebration! Two days after Laura’s birthday, Tessa Flak from the Society is bringing the Celebration to Watertown at Arts Night @ the Pub. Tessa will stand in for Laura as the Featured Author and tell us about Laura’s writings along with the most recent written words about Laura. Arts Night happens on Thursday, February 9th in the restaurant at Dempsey’s in Uptown Watertown. It is family friendly and handicapped accessible, located at 127 N Broadway. We are so delighted to have Tessa come share more about Laura and share the stage with our visual artist Charlene Fleming. It will be a Great Evening of Prairie Art!

      Look for Northern Prairie Arts or Arts Night @ the Pub on Facebook for more details. Hope you’ll join us for a delightful evening celebrating Laura, Charlene & the Arts on the Prairie!

  3. Daniel Plaster says:

    Mansfield is an interesting town. I live just west of there in Rogersville, Missouri, but my father’s family is from the Mansfield area. When my father was a small boy, Mrs. Wilder would come to the school house occasionally and read parts of her books to the children. My great aunt remembered seeing her drive through town, and, since she was a very short woman, she had to look through the steering wheel to see. My great great grandparents were neighbors of the Wilders (they lived about 3/4 mile from Rocky Ridge farm) and are buried just southeast of them in the Mansfield Cemetery. My great aunt, my father, and my grandmother are the only family members I have left who remember Mrs. Wilder and Rose. My grandma remembers Almanzo fairly well. Those folks won’t be around much longer. Wish I had more time to talk with them about it. I’m bringing my 8 year-old son to De Smet, SD in May and am rather excited about it. He’s just started becoming interested in the pioneer movement of the 1800’s. Hope it will foster more interest. Really enjoy this blog after discovering it online! Thanks!

    • Jill says:

      What wonderful information. Thank you. I didn’t know Laura was short, perhaps I’ve missed that somewhere but my grandchildren will love hearing about the steering wheel.

  4. Marilyn says:

    A very interesting post. Thank You

  5. Shirley says:

    First, I am not sure what blog to place this message in, but I am sure that I enjoy the blogs and the Little House books. I have read them so much they are falling apart now. One of the things that I have learned is that I was born the very same day that Laura passed away. I have been wondering if anyone would know what time she passed away?

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