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Everyday Life in….
By Ana Brazil
October 8, 2021

No matter what century or what locale we’re writing about, every historical fiction author strives to show exactly what “life was like back then”.

Getting those details right—whether it’s how people bathed during Tudor times, which book (other than the Bible) was on most 1850’s American and English bookshelves (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), or how to create liquid stockings during WWII—authors continue to research, research, and research that little thing known as “every day life.”

Even though we all have our favorite “everyday resources” (mine is newspapers.com), most authors can always use more. And so, here are a few online primary and secondary resources—some of which have appeared in previous Link Lists—to help historical fiction writers provide those exacting every day details.

HINT: Some of the sources span multiple categories, so for the most info, check more categories.

Colonial America:

 

Revolutionary America:

 

 New France:

19th century England:

 19th century America:

  • The 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book – An incredible offering of 1,380 recipes, from boiling an egg to preparing a calf’s head…instructions also go beyond recipes to include how to set the table for proper tea, full menu ideas for holiday dinners, housekeeping tips, and so much more.

 America during the Civil War:

Mary Chesnut’s Civil War
  • Civil War Era Diaries – Diaries by Northern soldiers, offering insight into the lives of regular soldiers.
  • Civil War Surgeon’s Letters and Diaries – From the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.
  • Emilie Davis Diaries – The diary of a free African American Woman living in Philadelphia during the Civil War era.
  • John Freeman Shorter’s Diary – Written from January 1–September 30, 1865, this diary details Shorter’s experiences as an African American soldier and officer during the final days of the Civil War.
  • Lincolniana – Materials related to United States President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865).
  • Mary Chesnut’s Civil WarAn annotated collection of the diaries of Mary Boykin Chesnut, an upper-class planter who lived in South Carolina during the American Civil War. Edited by C. Vann Woodward, and winner of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
  • Robert B. McKee papers – Correspondence, military orders, medical supply inventories, casualty reports, and other material related to service as a surgeon in the 1st Delaware Calvary regiment during the Civil War.

19th Century Paris:

19th Century Canada:

  • Royal Fisk Gold Rush LettersA valuable source of information on trade and commerce as it developed in Victoria during the height and decline of the Cariboo Gold Rush.

 

Early Images of Latin America – Fruit vendor in the Coyoacan market

19th century Latin America:

  • Early Images of Latin America – Over 1,800 images documenting people, places, landscapes, urban and rural scenes in various countries of the region from the mid-19th century to c. 1910.

 

Turn-of-the-Century and 20th Century America:

What’s on the menu? in the 1930s?

 

20th Century China:

  • Roy Maxwell Talbot Collection – Photographs, artifacts, and documents from the private collection of Roy Maxwell Talbot related to his long and eventful career in China as a Chinese Maritime Customs Service official (1908-1942).

 

World War I Sheet Music

WWI:

 

WWII:

The 1942 Sears Christmas Book
  • The 1942 Sears Christmas Book – Shoppers could purchase toys as well as housewares, clothes, furniture, candy, and gifts to send to servicemen….The wartime catalog even includes information about the importance of saving scrap metal for munitions and encourages readers to buy war bonds.
  • The Diary of Anne Frank and the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam. 
  • Heart Mountain Relocation Center Records – The Heart Mountain Relocation Center was one of ten camps mandated by the War Department in 1942 to detain Americans of Japanese ancestry. Collection contains the Heart Mountain charter, community minutes, notes on resettlement plans, transcripts of a trial, and documents in Japanese.
  • Hasterlik-Hine Collection – Documents the life of an upper-middle-class Viennese family in Nazi-occupied Austria that was deemed Jewish under the Nuremberg laws…. [and] consists of roughly 530 handwritten and typed letters, post cards and greeting cards between Giulia Kortischoner and her family and friends during the years 1938 to 1942 and 1944 to 1948.
  • Japanese Canadian Photograph CollectionFollowing the declaration of war on Japan, Japanese nationals and Canadian citizens of Japanese descent were forcibly removed from what was considered to be strategic, restricted coastal areas of British Columbia in 1942. Evacuees were first dispatched to temporary facilities at Vancouver’s Hastings Park and then from there relocated to areas in the B.C. interior and beyond.
  • Pictures of African Americans During World War II
  • Rosie the Riveter World War II American Home Front Oral Histories
  • Finis!
Ana Brazil
Written by Ana Brazil

Ana Brazil writes historical crime fiction celebrating bodacious American heroines. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Historical Novel Society, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers.
Ana’s latest historical mystery is THE RED-HOT BLUES CHANTEUSE, which features murder, mayhem, and music in 1919 San Francisco. Her award-winning historical mystery FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER is set in Gilded Age New Orleans.

View Ana’s PLW Profile

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