Little Things

Historical fiction is a cagey beast. We know so much history, but often the tiny details are lost to us, or they’re so hard to find they might as well be. The internet does help with the research. If nothing else, it points me toward the books I need. Still, finding the minutiae of daily life takes a lot of time to discover.

I’m working in 1905 on my current project. Details are easier to find than they were for the 18th century, and I’m enjoying the new era. Still, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve had to look for men’s dinner jackets and the accessories that went with them, knob and tube wiring and how best to use it to start an inconvenient fire, construction methods from 1865, and even when the Wizard of Oz came out. (The movie came out in 1939; the first book was published in 1900 but did not use the famous, “I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore” line.)

The gold nugget in my research was historical weather for Newport RI going back more than 100 years. It’s a rare find in my experience. Thanks to whoever put it up on the ‘net, I can say that May will be good weather for my hero to work on foundation issues, and the end of September might be best for roofing. That fits in my timeline rather nicely because the fire can’t be too early; it needs to be late enough to put the whole restoration in jeopardy. I can also see that Easter is sunny and fairly warm, which is perfect weather for my heroine to get into a scrape that will change her whole outlook. It’s the sort of information that lends credibility to a work of fiction. Let’s face it, some of you know more about history that I do! I think that’s why I love writing historical fiction. I learn so much in the process.

Anyone know something about Newport, RI or 1905 that I can weave into my plot?

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