1. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    1880's America

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Thornesque, Sep 3, 2013.

    So, I've been looking for information about what life was like in the U.S. in the early 1880s. The novel I"m planning tow rite takes place between teh years 1883 and 1884. However, all of the infomration I've been able to dig up is about extremely particular topics (I'm not very good at Googling; trust me).

    What I was wondering, is if anyone had any sort of sources they could point me towards that would give me a good idea of what life was like for middle- and lower-class citizens in 1880s America. Along with this, obviously, any novels that are set in the 1880s would be fabulous (reading up on the time period in the form of a novel would help a lot in seeing an actual account of someone's life in those times, as well as seeing some of the language that was used).

    Thanks in advance to anyone that responds.
     
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just wondering... if you know not-a-lot about life in 1880s America, why are you writing about it? Why not move your story to an era you do know?
     
  3. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    I don't know. Personally I don't need to know a lot (yet) about a topic or era to have interest in it an want to write about it. I mean, similarly, someone can research styles of karate because they think it would do their story good. Just because someone's neve been to Germany doesn't mean they can't think it'd be a good location to place their story. As a creative individual - hell, as a free thinker- I'm allowed to choose what topics, eras and locations interest me. And as a writer, what interests me is what tends to become a part of my novels.
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've actually got TONS of information regarding that period. In fact, my own novel is set in 1885-86. If you can give me a more specific idea of what you need, I'll see what I can point you toward.

    Example: are you interested in particular cities of that period? Are you looking to deal with 'western' themes? Any particular area of the country? Immigration? Transportation? Farming, clothing, manners, schooling ...suffrage rights? Food? Work for men and women, schooling for children, labor laws, etc ...the list is endless. Can you narrow it down a bit? What are you planning to write about?

    By the way, there is a HUGE difference in the lives of people living in the early 1800's and those at the other end of the century. Think of all the inventions that came into use during that period. It's almost as much of a shift as comparing somebody who lived in 1904 with somebody living in 1994. You can't find a source that will be usable, if you just google 1800's.
     
  5. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    I had actually been looking, specifically, at the 1880s, rather than the 1800s themselves, and when that didn't turn up a lot of results for me, I tried 1883 specifically, but it seemed like all the information I came across was...befuddled, I guess.

    There's a lot I want to address, but I think the key points I really need, at least to get started... Let's see. It's going to be set on the East Coast (New Jersey, to be specific). Work for women is crucial for me, as well. More importantly, my main character's father died, and I was wondering what would be likely to happen to the family? Is it possible that they would be allowed to live with her aunt for support? Or would it be possible that the mother could earn enough income to support herself and a teenage daughter on her own? Also, how old would a girl have to be to begin working?

    I think I've got clothing down, but manners and language would be a huge help. Mainly, I'm just looking for details that could help with determining what day-to-day life would be like for a young woman in Eastern America in 1883-84.
     
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  6. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    I know a lot about this time period, so I can help you!
    (Assuming your family is middle class) They would probably go live with the aunt, yeah. Her mother probably wouldn't work outside the home, but she would help the aunt with housework/childcare. Your MC could start working at age 14,(depending on the need for money) but probably wouldn't until 16.
     
  7. GHarrison
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    GHarrison Senior Member

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    I know the internet is the go-to place for info these days, but for historic fact you may want to check out a library. Many non-fiction books were written in the 20th century that focus on specific areas and times of the 19th century, and the wealth of knowledge they share isn't necessarily available on the web.

    Know the location you are researching, because life in cities would have varied, and new towns and cities were popping up all over the country during that time and beginning to define themselves. The USA in the 1880's was a time of great growth and change, and people were not the same everywhere.

    Cheers,
     
  8. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    I'm not really in a big area. The library I'm limited to is a community college library that has, maybe, 25 or 30 shelves of books. I can assure you that, were there any resources to be found here, I'd already be reading them. Unfortunately, I'm limitted by my little town.
     
  9. GHarrison
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    GHarrison Senior Member

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    Where is the story taking place? What's the setting? The answers to these questions could lead you to what you are looking for. Maybe you can find a resource or 2 on amazon for cheap.
     
  10. old cogger
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    old cogger Member

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    My so-called expertice is 1840 thru 1890 and from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Dakota's', Ohio to Oregon (Oregon Trail). I have my character outline and setting (Deadwood). I write historical fiction and try to get as precise as possible, so if you can help me on clothing, surroundings, and buildings, house, and furnishings I would sure appreciate it

    Thanks Cogger
     

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