So Sarah Zama got me thinking, and maybe the
better spot for this book was 1931. The more I played with the
idea of a series, the better this looked. So, just as elsewhere
I researched 1817 to learn I really wanted to be in 1803, here
I stepped across the big divide of Repeal into Prohibition. This
is something with which I have only a nodding acquaintance. I
know I need much more than to plug in the 1934 stuff with some
magazines of different date. This is a very different era.
THE ONE BOOK USED CONSTANTLY
1). A general history of the time, not
over 200 pages.
Bootleggers, "Typhoid Mary" & The Bomb: An Anecdotal
History of the United States from 1923-1945 by Barrington Boardman; 1988; Harper & Row, NY.
This is it for this period, like we keep using the one outline
history from the Fall of the Rome to the end of the Renaissance.
If you find a good one, it's your first book every time you need
to check when you want to write in. This one is cool because
it isn't a political history, more a headlines of pop culture.
Otherwise, go read Wikipedia on the era.
2.) An "everyday life" book of
Life Through the Ages;
Reader's Digest editors; 1992;
Reader's Digest Assoc, London; nonfactual in many places, making
rest suspect, but it's a start if you have no clue. You can also
Fabulous Century v. III, 1920-1930; the
Editors of Time-Life Books,1969; Time-Life Books, Alexandria,
VA. But it would pay you to also read v. II, 1910-1920 (1969)
because it fills in what's there in technology and is
what most adults have lived through, including The War and the
Spanish influenza that had such a high mortality.
3.) General transportation
Hollingsworth, JB, & PB Whitehouse; North
American Railways; 1977; Bison Books, London.
4.) General costume
Movies, and the Costumers
Manifesto. Most "history of costume" books
bail out after, if not before, the Great War (WW1), or get very
sketchy. C'mon 21st century, get with it!
5.) Specific transportation
Automobiles: Hildebrand, George, ed.,
Golden Age of the Luxury Car: An Anthology of Articles &
Photographs from "Autobody" 1927-1931;
1980, Dover, NY.
6.) Etiquette, and I don't mean morals
Emily Post, Etiquette,
in the era.
7.) Spectator entertainments, a general
Stein, Charles W., ed & comm; American
Vaudeville as Seen by Its Contemporaries;
1984; Knopf, NY. covers through 1936.
Complete Hoyle (1922) by Robert
Frederick Foster was the closest I could get you in freebies.
I had to find out what the Thains played in the evenings, bridge
9.) Food and dining, including what sort
of public dining was available.
For the night life, I found Dining
in New York (1930) by Rian James. The chapter on
popular cocktails and their recipes is great help.
10.) Recipes for period food.
American Woman's Cook Book by Ruth Berolzheimer,
1943, Consolidated Book Publishers, Chicago, IL. The section
on dumplings is excellent. The supplement in the back is on cooking
within the limitations of rationing, which means the rest is
older, pre-war: the earliest version is 1927.
11.) Marriage and family.
and Sex Harmony. The Sexes, Their Relations and Problems, &c. by Herman H. Rubin, MD; 1933, NY, Elliot Publishing
Company. A bit late in date, but not in theories.
12.) Specific dress styles, for your decade,
including specialty costumes for clerics.
You need to look at
period mail-order catalogs and fashion magazines. As a shortcut,
from the Sears Catalogs: Early 1930s (Schiffer Book for Collectors), 2007, by Tammy Ward
and Tina Skinner, makes a nice selection from a tight time period.
The Dover book on "The Thirties" is just too broad
and decadal, when there is a drastic change at 1934, with the
plummet of hems and the arrival of shoulder pads for women.
13.) Religion for the time and place.
I actually found a
volume of Jehovah's Witnesses publications from the period, the
predecessor to The Watchtower. I also talked to old Catholics
about their church before 1968. I researched the Masons and the
Rosicrucians, including the anti-Masonic literature. I needed
a Rosicrucian-like mail-order wisdom that I could make specifically
what I needed.
14.) A fat history book of the area and
quarter-century before as an introduction.
Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen (1931) is
considered a standard reference to the USA in the time from the
end of the European War to the Stockmarket Crash. Then we pick
up with his 1940 book, Since
Yesterday. That covers 1929-1939, and the earlier
part rather better.
15.) A history of the most influential
country at the time (country A).
16.) A history of its rival (country B).
Simonds, Frank H., LittD & Brooks Emeny,
Great Powers in World Politics; International Relations and Economic
Nationalism 1935-1939; 1935-1939; American
Book Co., NY. Covers 1890-1939 without foreknowledge of WW2.
This will work quite nicely for a history refresh over all.
17.) A biography of the leader of country
18.) A biography of the leader of country
If they feature in your book.
In Near History, you can substitute biographies of any two notable
celebrities of the time, though the more different they are the
better. Say, Al Capone (Al
Capone; the Biography of a Self-made Man (1930), sooo tongue in cheek) and
Billy Sunday, or Clara Bow and Aimee Semple McPherson. In my
Vallée to 1931,
and Alister Crowley.
19.) A history of the country you are setting
This lets you see if you
want to adjust your era a bit, or a lot, if you're not
in A or B. If you are, take this spot for a book particular to
your plot. Like Stein, Charles W., editor
and commentator, American
Vaudeville As Seen by Its Contemporaries (NY; Alfred
A. Knopf, 1984.) A wonderful gleaning of articles, including
the 1922 economics of running a vaudeville theatre. To understand
the equivalent of television for its day, because I have a major
character in show biz.
20.) A history of the country you are setting
in, that era.
Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920-1941
(Norton twentieth century America series) by Michael E. Parrish
21.) A biography of the leader of the country
of your setting.
Substitutes are Are the Jews a Menace to Civilization? The Character
of the Jew Explained, 1934, which for a change is an anti-anti-Semitic
anonymous pamphlet. To balance it, I read the Protocols
of the Elders of Zion updated, I didn't think anti-Semitism
would be big in the book, but just there, like rain, but it has
actually become a tiny pivot point.
22.) An everyday life for the commoner/lower
classes of your time and place.
Of course, we will
be tempted to load up on bootleggers. The gangster movies before
1934 are pretty good for this (Little Caesar, Public
movie, good on vignettes of the life), The
Roaring Twenties, Smart Money). But check #47, Popular Science Monthly,
for articles on how rum runners operate and how the Feds go after
them. It's the period approach. They also give an unusual time-table
on what approaches to getting liquor were being used. But there's
a lighter side in approaches to theatre: The Gold Diggers
of 1934 is still spot-on for being a starving actress in
the Depression and how things are delivered COD from the shop
around the corner. Twists,
Slugs and Roscoes: A Glossary of Hardboiled Slang is your guide to talking tough for underworld types.
Accurate and well-researched. Check especially the note on "gunsel."
23.) An everyday life for the upper classes
of your time and place.
Emily Post, Etiquette,
in the era. That's where she was born into and lived.
24.) An everyday life for the middle class
of your time and place.
See #23 and #26, and
every movie about the middle class from the early talkies you
can get your hands on, drama or comedy.
25.) An everyday life for women of your
time and place,
Because the other books rarely touch on what the wives of the
workers, bankers, or plutocrats do with their day. Try starting with ladies on the shady
side with Confessions
of a Taxi Dancer
(1938, Johnson Smith & Co, Detroit), especialy if you don't
know what a taxi dancer is. I'm looking at young woman more than
the older, so "girl's history" can help: Kelly Schrum's Some
Wore Bobby Sox: The Emergence of Teenage Girls' Culture, 1920-1945
(2004; Palgrave MacMillan, New York) for girls, fashions,
movies, music, and fandom. Note that my lead character was born
1907, putting her in her teens 1923-1927.
25b) This is about the earliest we can
introduce Youth Culture, everyday life for people 13 to 25.
There's Jon Savage's Teenage:
The Prehistory of Youth Culture: 1875-1945 (2007;
Penguin Books) for teenagers, high school and college life, in
America, Britain, France, and Germany,well-written but extremely
under-illustrated. People were finally paying attention to the
age group, and I found a pile of period books on "Young
People and the Cinema" that was mainly valuable for all
the quotations written by the kids in essays on their experiences,
giving me period voices for boys and girls, and blacks as well
26.) An auto/biography of someone like
your protagonist, or a book as much as possible focused on people
That I haven't found, other than looking
for "young woman in New York in a better family that's staying
above water after the Crash." Let's count Hildegarde Dolson's
Shook the Family Tree (a trifle early; published
1946, author born 1908, and grew up in Franklin, Penn.) and Ruth
Sister Eileen (1938; author right age but moved to
NY from Ohio), since they both wind up in NY, had working girl
adventures, and I've read them a zillion times. They form the
basis for my concepts here of a girls's life in Manhattan.
27.) A book on houses and furnishings of
the period, if possible.
Alpern, Andrew; New
York's Fabulous Luxury Apartments With Original Floor Plans from
the Dakota, River House, Olympic Tower and Other Great Buildings;
1975, McGraw-Hill, NY, as Apartments for the Affluent:
A Historical Survey of Buildings in New York; Dover, NY;
1987. Also Olson
Rugs: 1931 (1931) by the Olson Rug Company, which
shows nice interiors. There are a dozen catalogs of early pre-fab
houses to give you floorplans, and Popular Science Monthly
for interiors, repair projects, wall finishes, and gadgetry.
28.) A book about courting, romance, and
sex of the time.
Control by Dr. B. O. Whitten, "read before
Columbia Medical Society, June 13, 1932." Now that's a subject
you don't often find covered before the 1960s. Discusses acceptability
more than actual method, and tells me that it is pretty normal
among the middle and upper classes, so foolin' around may proceed.
and Sex Harmony. the Sexes, Their Relations and Problems, &c. by Herman H. Rubin, MD;
1933, NY, Elliot Publishing Company, would be being written at
this time. Also, The
Mystery of Love, Courtship, and Marriage Explained by
Henry J. Wehman; 1890; NY; Wehman Bros, was reprinted through
this time. Not everyone is on the same page of a settled Sexual
Revolution: it's just starting, and this is the conservative
29.) A book for naming historical characters
Security site, but remember: you need to choose the decade
or year, not by when the story is, but by when the character
was born. A high school girl and her mother, let alone grandmother,
can have very different kinds of names. By all means, latch onto
ones near the top of popularity that aren't in use now: they
make your characters seem less of today and very much of then.
Also, these are only personal names, and characters need family
names. For specific ethnic groups, Holly Ingraham, People's Names: A Cross-Cultural Reference Guide
to the Proper Use of Over 40000 Personal and Familial Names in
Over 100 Cultures, 1997, McFarland.
30.) Medicine of the time and place.
American Red Cross; American
Red Cross First Aid Text-Book; 1933; The Blakiston
Co, Phila. PA for medical and first aid, 1925-1945. Our first
responders only have to keep things together until the ambulance
or medivac chopper arrives. These guys might have to carry out
someone with a broken bone to get somewhere with a phone or radio
or telegraph to get a doctor in. So the techniques actually go
deeper into care. Also, A
History of Medicine, 1945 Thomas Nelson &
Sons Ltd;. London, Edinburgh, Paris, Melbourne, New York; it
covers around 500 BC to 1940 CE. There's a nice history of the
of bone fractures up to the 1500s from 1936: it includes
information on the Winnebago and Dakota tribes, along with the
expected European. As well, I can apply The
Modern Home Physician, A New Encyclopedia of Medical Knowledge,
Illustrated with Two Hundred and Thirty-Two Photographs and Nearly
Seven Hundred Drawings Made Expressly for This Work,
edited by Victor Robinson (Wm. H. Wise & Co., 1938).
This is even better for correcting my ideas of period medicine,
as in, due to the lack of antibiotics, lead and mercury are
still in common use, external and internal, or that dual
personality is considered a form of epilepsy. Different planet!
31.) Climate, weather, and seasons.
New York Times, especially to check for blizzards and
Sigh. I just noticed I have a 20-year gap
in my atlas collection, between 1914 and 1937. It's off to Perry-Castañeda
Library Map Collection.
I found diagrams of the subways and elevateds
Maps of Subways and Els, 1880-1976.
My 1928 Railway Atlas lets me
check what she takes to go out of the city. I am slowly scanning
this and hope to get it up online for you some year. I have finished
the scans and now I just need to format all those JPEGs into
something like a PDF.
32) Weirdness: Brian
A Natural History of Altered States of Mind; 1990;
Grafton Books, Collins Publishing Group, London
33) Weirdness: Charles
Books of Charles Fort, The: The Book of the Damned/New Lands/Lo!/Wild
Talents; 1941; 1919,
1923, 1931, 1932; Henry Holt & Co, NY; Dover, NY
34) Weirdness: Joseph
F. Goodavage; Write
Your Own Horoscope; 1968; New American Library;
Signet Mystic, NY. This is a simple introduction to some of the
complexities of a natal horoscope for the beginner.
35) Weirdness: Colin
Occult, 1971; Vintage Books, div. of Random House,
36) Weirdness: General
Guide to the Exhibition Halls of the American Museum of Natural
History (1932); American Museum
of Natural History; New York: American Museum of Natural History.
Well, that's what I used it for.
37) Everyday Life: Charles
Goodrum, & Helen Dalrymple; Advertising
in America: The First 200 Years; 1990; Harry
N. Abrams, Inc. NY
38) Everyday Life: Various
mail-order catalogs, from Sears,
Montgomery Wards, Speigel, &c., especially the Christmas
39) Style: Theodore
Menten; The Art Deco
Style in Household Objects, Architecture, Sculpture, Graphics,
Jewelry; 1972; Dover, NY
40) Family Life: Infant
Care (1929): United States.
Children's Bureau; Eliot, Martha M. (Martha May), b. 1891: Washington
: U.S. Govt. print. off.
41) Collegiate Life: The
Sorority Handbook (1931) by
Mrs. Ida Shaw Martin, 1867-: Boston [Ida S. Martin]: originally
42) The U.S. of A.: This
Country of Yours (1932): Markey,
Morris, 1899-1960: Boston, Little, Brown and company
43) New York City: New
York Architecture, 1650-1952 (1952)
by Jackson, Huson; New York: Reinhold. That's
New York! (1927; NY; Macy-Masius) by Morris Markey.
There is a lot since they added the Seymour Durst collection
on New York City.
44) Travel: Robert Wall; Airliners;1980; Chartwell Books, Book Sales Inc, Secaucus, NJ.
45) Entertainment: The
Weekly Radio Dial, 1931 (1931):
Radio Dial Publishing, Co.
46) Automobiles: George
Hildebrand, ed., The
Golden Age of the Luxury Car: An Anthology of Articles &
Photographs from "Autobody" 1927-1931;
1980, Dover, NY.
47) Technology and Fashion: Popular Science Monthly Magazine,
Okay, I read this magazine a lot. That's because if you don't
read the years around you won't see when pinking shears are a
new household device (not until 1932), or when electrocardiographs
come in (at least by 1937, so far) and that contact lenses were
invented in 1930 (but not popularized or really available for
decades). Popular Mechanics isn't nearly as good for our
purposes. Ads tell you about tobacco products, power tools, and
electric shavers, not to mention that pimples aren't called zits,
they're called hickies. Use that one at your own peril. This
also showed me that most people don't have Art Deco decor. They
go to a lot of trouble to turn spindles on a lathe to get that
Colonial style, with the occasional Jacobean accent. A modernistic
table or lamp is an accent in an otherwise Duncan Phyfe or Chippendale
48) Prohibition: Prohibition:
Thirteen Years That Changed America is very light on the last years: spends more time
on 1933 and the effects of Repeal than on anything in the three
years 1930-32, so it's more background and backstory than immediate.
I have better hope for Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohbition (2010; Scribner, NY) by Daniel Okrent, which still
starts in 1890, and runs through 1934.
49) Cussing: Because
someone might do it seriously. Holy
Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr,
Oxford University Press, 2013. But it's largely what we use today,
with some notable exceptions of the inventions of the counter-culture
Seventies. But I wouldn't know that if I hadn't read it. Of course,
polite society didn't cuss at all. So sub Negro
Life in New York's Harlem : A Lively Picture of a Popular and
Interesting Section (1927) by Wallace Thurman, because
my characters go there.
50) Music & Radio: Radio has nearly killed both sheet music and record
sales in 1931 (Rudy Vallée is keeping records alive).
Download one of the 1925-1934
collections posted by PopularJazzArchive, or a 1920s