So in case anyone who reads this blog is insufficiently schooled in the extent and specifics of my ongoing insanity, I shall lay it all out in the simplest of terms: I am writing a series. And not just any series, but a fantasy series. And not just any fantasy series, but a historical fantasy series. (And a partially self-published historical fantasy series at that. Go sign up for my mailing list whydoncha?)
The series as a whole is made up of component duologies. Each duology follows different characters and is set in a different era of United States history. Concurrent to the writing and promotion of these books, I am posting my historical research, interesting factoids, et cetera.
The first duology was set in 1876—and for it, I did an overview post about 1876. The second duology is set in 1910. So here, without further ado, are my thoughts about why 1910 was so flippin’ awesome and why I decided to set two books in it.
OK. So. 1910. Fifty years after the Civil War, and the United States looks a whole lot different than it did. Mr. Bell’s telephone (which was first demonstrated in 1876, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition) is in widespread use, with millions of American homes already connected by manual switchboard. This is the era of telephone operators—”hello-girls”—who do the actual grunt-work of connecting calls. Not that there is probably much actual grunting involved, but my point is a long distance call isn’t just a matter of dialing a 1 before the area code. It means calling your local operator at your local switchboard, who jams a plug into a board to complete a circuit between you and another operator, who plugs in another plug to connect you to another operator somewhere further along, and so on, and so on, and so on.
Electricity is hot, gas is not. Not for lighting the home and street, anyway. By 1910, literally thousands of homes have “made the switch” to electric lighting instead of gas or kerosene. (Of course, true historians of electricity will see the funny joke I just made there, because in 1910, the “light switch” as we know it today was not yet in evidence. Neither was the wall outlet. Check out this fascinating blog post for all the deets. Fun fact—the light turny-dial things (and push-buttons) shown are just like the ones in the house I live in, which was built in 1916!)
A different kind of gas—petroleum gasoline—is gaining popularity, as it is one means by which the ever-increasing numbers of automobiles are being fueled. But gasoline-fueled cars are by no means standard. The war for America’s Automotive Future will not be won until the major drawback of gasoline automobiles—the fact that they are really hard to start and can, like, break your arm with their kickback—is conquered by the self-starter, first installed by Cadillac on production models in 1912. Thus, in 1910 the gasoline auto is still in the process of duking it out for supremacy with other serious (electric) and less serious (steam) contenders.
Money in 1910 comes in a staggering variety of colors, shapes and sizes, and is issued by all sorts of people. In 1910, everybody apparently has the right to issue currency. Good times. This is probably why the 1900s will come to be called the “Progressive Era”—well, that, and because they are also a period of intense social activism and reform.
When I think of the 1870s, I think of corruption—they were a time of political bosses, gladhanding, commodity-market cornering, trusts, and kickbacks. When I think of the 1900s, I think of idealism. Paternalistic idealism, to be sure—but it was an era of trust-busting, organized labor, and the City Beautiful movement. In the 1900s, we were playing on a bigger stage and we had to clean ourselves up and look like civilized human beings. We did not always succeed.
But by cracky, it was a fun ride!