1. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    NYC in the 1800s.

    Discussion in 'Research' started by stormcat, Apr 6, 2015.

    I was originally going to write a story set in Victorian London. But after spending last weekend in NYC, I realize everyone writes stories in Victorian London, So I should do one set in Victorian NYC instead!

    The only problem is I can't seem to find good resources for NYC in that era. I know that Boss Tweed, Teddy Roosevelt and Ellis Island were all important, but I want more than that. What were the good and bad parts of town? When did they start allowing automobiles in the streets? Is there anything left of Gilded age NYC left standing today?

    Can anyone help me find resources?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Start with Google Images, those are always a rich source of information.
    33 Street Scenes, Late 1800s NYC

    Then look for historical accounts: NYC and the developing Republic. From there take events and neighborhoods that existed/occurred and search for those like a game of tag.

    Seneca Village
    The Erie Canal
    The Great Fire of 1835
    NYC Ragpickers

    Keep looking and you find:

    CARRIAGE HORSES History - PORTRAIT OF AN UNHEALTHY CITY: NEW YORK IN THE 1800S
    Urban Milestones

    I could surf all day. :)
     
  3. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    Not bad, but most of these sources seem to cite the early 1800s, but I want my story to take place in the late 1800s (Haven't picked an exact year, but anytime between 1870 and 1900 should be good)
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Goodness @stormcat, just do the same searches with "late 1800s".

    LMGTFY

    :superagree:
     
  5. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    What's your date range specifically? I'm a bit of a political history junkie so I might not know what's going on in the streets, but I know the general politics of post-civil war America really well (especially the 1880s) and NYC was a BIG focus of a lot of Action.

    It's important to remember that NYC during the civil war was one of the big centers of the Democratic Party in the North (Remember Lincoln was a Republican and the Democrats were a Southern based party) - and there was a good amount of anti-war "Copperhead" sentiment. A leading figure to look into in terms of that crowd would be Gov. Horatio Seymour (and his epic neckbeard - seriously, google it).

    After the war the Republicans became more entrenched and developed their own political machine to rival Tweed's Tammany Hall - led by Sen. Roscoe Conkling (who I still think is one of the most interesting political villains in American history). That machine eventually spawned the only true "machine poltician" president - Chester Arthur (1881-85), who was a close associate of Conkling (later turning on him) and was really the only true "NYC" president this country ever had (the only other one was Teddy Roosevelt, who rejected his big-city poshness for a cowboy image - while Arthur reveled in it).

    The Irish immigrant community already played a huge role in the city - joined later by other communities like Italians, Poles, Jews, etc. after the 1880s. If you haven't seen it already - watch the movie "Gangs of New York", which is a really enlightening and painstaking portrayal of NYC in the 1860s (both street gangs, the Irish culture, and the local anti-war response to the Civil War).

    Let me know if theres anything I can help with. Like I said I'm not great at the street-level - but I know the history pretty well.
     
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  6. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also if you're in New York I'd pick a year quickly. It's an immigrant city and it was RAPIDLY changing during the post civil war era. For instance, Italian immigration started 188o-ish and REALLY got booming post-1890 up until the start of WWI. If you're playing in 1875, you're talking about a VERY different population than 1903. These are your peak immigration years to the U.S., and when you're writing plays a big role in determining who's there and who's not.

    I'll lobby for 1880s just because I've always wanted to see Roscoe Conkling as a historical-fiction villain :p
     
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  7. A Fellow Stalker
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    The Jungle by Upton Sinclair might be some good reading. It was written in 1906 and is based around mostly Chicago, but it's meant to be a view of American urbanism as a whole, New York included. Although a bit later than what you wanted, the issues were old ones, and most of them were around in the 1800's as well.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2015
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    You might want to check out a biography of Walt Whitman. He made his name as a journalist in New York - and was a flaneur, or 'man about town' at that time. Also, 'Bartleby The Scrivener' the short story by Herman Melville - not only is it a damn good story, but it is also a pretty savage attack on the type of bureaucratic capitalism that was emerging in the maturing republic.
     
  9. jannert
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    You absolutely MUST get hold of this book. It's worth ten times its price. It's full of pictures and explanatory text from the period, mostly from the magazines that were popular in the day. It covers the pre-Civil War era through to the end of the Victorian period, with categories like:
    Memorable Events, Daily Life, Sports and Pastimes, Popular Entertainments and Cultural Life, Politics, City Services, Business and Commerce, The Waterfront, the Harbor and Transportation.

    The book is a Dover publication, entitled New York in the Nineteenth Century - 317 engravings from Harpers' Weekly and Other Contemporary Sources - the author is John Grafton

    Here is a link to the book on Amazon ...



    The inside cover of this book lists many others you might also want to get hold of, covering many aspects of 19th century New York.

    You might also want to hunt up Jacob Riis's book of photographs of the poor, which is quite famous. And I can't remember the exact title at the moment, but if I find it, I'll pass it on.

    Here's the link. It's called How The Other Half Lives. These photos were taken late in the century, but are really excellent examples of what the poor in New York had to live like.

    Here's the Amazon link to the Dover publication. It's available in other formats as well. I just have a soft spot in my heart for Dover!

     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2015
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  10. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    I've decided the year is gonna be 1889. I've also decided that my character is going to be a chemist at a drug store. I could also use some information on what pharmacists at the time did, besides dispensing Laudanum.
     
  11. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    okay, okay, New idea.

    I've decided that my cast is going to be a full of immigrants. Now, I feel I can assume the modern little italy in NYC is located in the same general area the italian immigrants lived turn of the century. But where were the Polish immigrants and black people? Had northern Manhattan really been developed that much? Was Harlem even a thing in 1889?
     

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