The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s

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As your historical romance or mystery unfolds in nineteenth-century Boston -- or a dusty farm town in the American West -- your characters sit down to the breakfast table... And your story grinds to an abrupt halt. What should they be eating? Or wearing to attend church later this Sunday morning?

Help has arrived. Marc McCutcheon illuminates everyday life in the 1800's decade by decade, in the pages of this ...
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Overview

As your historical romance or mystery unfolds in nineteenth-century Boston -- or a dusty farm town in the American West -- your characters sit down to the breakfast table... And your story grinds to an abrupt halt. What should they be eating? Or wearing to attend church later this Sunday morning?

Help has arrived. Marc McCutcheon illuminates everyday life in the 1800's decade by decade, in the pages of this dictionary-style reference guide. In this comprehensive volume, you'll find hundreds of otherwise obscure facts about:
  • Popular slang -- from the range to the underworld.
  • How to furnish a farmhouse or outfit a barn.
  • How much it costs for a shot of whiskey or to mail a letter.
  • Styles for the fashionable -- and not-so-fashionable.
  • Courtship and marriage rituals.
  • Popular food and drink -- including brand names.
Beginning with a lively overview, major sections contain dozens of quotes from magazines and books published during the time, illustrating the proper context for terms in everyday speech. Quick-reference chronologies of events, popular magazines and books and songs make fact-checking easy.

Take out about 50 pounds of books from your local library and you may be lucky enough to find some of the information included here. Take out another 50 pounds and you'll still have but a fraction of the details you need to make your story -- and your characters -- live and breathe in the 1800's. This book is the only reference gathering all of this valuable, hard-to-find -- but oh-so-helpful -- information into one volume.

The wonderful and fascinating details of the 1800s have been gathered into one interesting volume, in which McCutcheon has included quotes from 19th-century citizens concerning or describing hairstyles and fashion, favorite swear words and slang, jokes of the period, courtship and marriage rituals, and more. A must for both fiction and nonfiction historical writers.

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Editorial Reviews

Zom Zoms
This compendium of details about daily life in the U.S. was written as a reference for authors of westerns, romances, mysteries, and historical dramas so that they can readily add "color and credibility" to their stories set in the nineteenth century. The information is presented in 14 topical chapters covering such subjects as "Around the House," "Occupations," "Amusements," "Courtship and Marriage," and "Out on the Range." A number of the chapters have topical subdivisions as well. For instance, "Getting Around" is divided into sections covering carriages, coaches, and wagons; stage lines; railroads; and water travel Chapters briefly introduce the topic and contain a listing of short definitions that usually indicate the time period of usage. The terms used as entry words are listed alphabetically within each chapter or subsection. About one-third of the definitions include quotations from writings of the period; brief bibliographic citations are provided in the text with complete publication details included in the "References" section in the back of the book. Also included in each chapter are sidebars and special lists on such topics as medical treatments, the price of tailoring, and a chronology of hairstyles. Following the topical chapters are five separate chronologies that range in length from three to seven pages: events, noted books and novels, selected magazines, innovations, and popular songs The details in the book are often interesting. One can learn that the fee for a medical house call could often be reduced if the doctor's horse was fed; that in the 1880s almost every town had a roller-skating rink; and that oysters were so popular that they were not only sold in the streets and in special rooms in saloons, but they were the central attraction of many parties. However, the information provided is also selective, and often sources are not clearly cited. For instance, the list of traveling amusements is based on the 1845 "Annals of Salem" (Massachusetts), while information on this topic is not discernible about other areas of the country. The list of drinks served at a fashionable barroom in the 1840s was "taken from an advertisement," with no additional information about this source This book will be of interest to its intended readership of writers, but it would probably be best used by browsers or those experts looking for specific definitions or facts. Although it contains a wealth of details, the lack of indexing limits its reference usefulness for quick access to the information. This is not a definitive volume, so it is recommended for large collections or those with appropriate specialties.
Booknews
A dictionary-style compilation of hundreds of otherwise obscure facts and definitions that add color and credibility to stories set in the 19th century. Quotes follow each definition to demonstrate the proper context of terms in everyday speech. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2005

    My favorite reference book!

    I have a large number of reference books, but none that I refer to as often as this one! The topics are well categorized, and it is easy to find what you are looking for. Great book, highly recommended!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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