Tuesday, June 22, 2004

I'm trying to gather some research for my next novel, which is going to cover about one hundred years of a family's history. It's set in Ohio, and I'm going to be using all sorts of sources, both local oral histories and more scholarly representations, but I'm having some trouble locating good books that are overviews of the past century, and also books that are good for those details like when people generally moved over from say kerosene oil lamps to electric lighting, when phones were in general use from home to home, and what the names of various articles of clothing back in the day were, or the name of radio programs and descriptions of them. Stuff like that. For instance, my grandmother just told me the story of the radio program her grandmother used to listen to, called Stella Dallas, which sounds sort of like an old fashioned radio soap opera. I'm keen on finding bits of stuff like that, as well as broader scoped material ranging from early 1900s to the present. If anyone happens to know some good books that may be useful, please let me know. I really appreciate it.


Blogger chance said...

and the library is shunning your question :(

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go onto Google and put in:

'only yesterday" "frederick lewis allen"

This will bring up what I believe to be the enire text of a famous work of popular U.S. history/nostalgia, a work about the earliest part of the 20th century published originally in 1931.


9:20 AM  
Blogger Celia said...

I'm sure there's other sources out there, but what about the Laura Ingalls Wilder book, the last one. Let me see what it's called...West from Home is letters to her husband in 1915, and the last book in the real series, These Happy Golden Years" might be useful for the older details.

Actually, come to think of it, YA might be a good place to look. Things like the American Girl books are all set in various time periods and designed to sneakily teach the kids about the time period, so they might well spell out things like what various clothing items were commonly worn, and even our little library in PA had a good number of them. But so far as the overviews are, I can't help you there.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Thanks, Rick, that stuff looks good. And Celia, hee, I was just talking to a friend on the phone the other night who said try children's and YA books, and I said, yeah, those American Girls books my nieces read look like they'd have at least some details I could pick up on. Thanks

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the radio shows: there were lots of amazing local stations and networks from the '20's on through the '50's. I know Eastern Ohio isn't the prairie. But you might go onto Google again and put in

"voice of the prairie" WLS

for information about that flagship Chicago station which people in your area would have heard through its network.

You might also see if your local or your county library has any of the reprint Sears or Wards catalogs. These, more than old movies or the nostalgia books, show what Americans actually wore and owned.

"The American Girl" books have and deserve a high level or repect for their research and imagination. Nothing about my father so impressed his grand daughters when they were small as that the American Girl creators had consulted with him about some piece of history( not, I think it's safe to say, fashions).


3:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

I was wondering about those Sears and Roebuck catalogs, actually. I'll see if the county library has any. If not, maybe the historical society has some.

Till then, I'll go to the bookstore and look at American Girl books. lol

5:37 PM  
Blogger Matthew Cheney said...

Local newspapers at libraries will be a good source of info. There are a few books that do year-by-year timelines of history, too, which would include some of the technological info you're after -- one's The People's Chronology (I think that's the title), the other The Timeline of History (I think there's a specific Timeline of American History book too). Any library would have stuff like that in their reference section. The Gale Group publishes gazillions (technical term) of multivolume encyclopedias and reference books on that sort of thing.

On the web, the Library of Congress has a phenomenal section on "American Memory" -- I haven't checked it for your timeperiod and geography, but I've used it for other things and loved it. Also look at this site on American cultural history. Up hereabouts, we were busy with The Great Molasses Flood.

Happy hunting...

2:54 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Wow, all great stuff, thanks, Matt!

6:12 PM  

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