|In this case, I knew I'd be dealing in automobiles as a central motif, and not moving far afield, so I didn't have to hit railroads in California or theatre in Chicago or riverboats on the Mississippi, though my library covers this.|
Huge and relentlessly pictorial, a lap-breaker based on the Byron family collection of photographs. Mayer's research into what went on behind the pictures is heroic, and a load of fun to read.
1). A general history of the time, not
over 200 pages.
2.) An "everyday life" book of
3.) General transportation
4.) General costume
5.) Specific transportation
6.) Etiquette, and I don't mean morals
7.) Spectator entertainments, a general
9.) Food and dining, including what sort
of public dining was available.
10.) Recipes for period food.
11.) Marriage and family.
12.) Specific dress styles, for your decade,
including specialty costumes for clerics.
13.) Religion for the time and place.
Yes, I know I suggest you research the history in case you are misremembering the period. 50 Books is based on you only have a vague idea, or you are tying into historical events like invasions so you must get the years right. In this case, I had the Spanish-American War (April 25 August 25, 1898), annexation of Hawai'i (July 7), and an important election in the history of Tammany Hall. But I knew enough about the period to know this, and couldn't tell you the names of the books I had picked this up from over the years (trust me, it wasn't much from my college history classes).
14.) A fat history book of the area and century as an introduction.
15.) A history of the most influential country at the time (country A).
16.) A history of its rival (country B).
Politics could not possibly matter less, though a certain amount of wartime jingoism is in the air. America having just won the Spanish-American War, Europe is eyeing it askance. Imaginary War fiction of the period often makes Britain one of the sides, often the aggressor. British writers often conquer America, while American writers dealt with British aggression. So while France was obsessed with avenging the Franco-Prussian War, let's make it the United Kingdom and America.
17.) A biography of the leader of country A
18.) A biography of the leader of country B
This is still the reign of Queen Victoria, but really late in it.
19.) A history of the country you are setting
20.) A history of the country you are setting
in, that era.
21.) A biography of the leader of the country
of your setting.
22.) An everyday life for the commoner/lower
classes of your time and place.
23.) An everyday life for the upper classes
of your time and place.
24.) An everyday life for the middle class
of your time and place.
25.) An everyday life for women of your
time and place,
26.) An auto/biography of someone like
your protagonist, or a book as much as possible focused on people
27.) A book on houses and furnishings of
the period, if possible.
28.) A book about courting, romance, and
sex of the time.
29.) A book for naming historical characters
30.) Medicine of the time and place.
31.) Climate, weather, and seasons.
For an automobile race, necessary. Fortunately, Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection had lots of state and city maps of the later 1800s.
Rand, McNally & Co.'s Complete City Railway and Street Number Guide of New York City (1896): Chicago and New York, Rand, McNally & co, was a big help to getting the city right.
32) Automobiles, driving conditions: 2000 Miles on an Automobile: Being a Desultory Narrative of a Trip Through New England, New York, Canada, and the West by "Chauffeur" (Arthur Jerome Eddy), gives 1902 driving experiences in New York and the vicinity. This was the closest I could get to my target year, and decided that I would not be driving to Philadelphia because I couldn't get information on the route. Massachussets and back it was! Always remembering that conditions would be even worse.
33) Humor: Peggy Edmund & Harold W. Williams, compilers; Toaster's Handbook: Jokes, Stories & Quotations; 1916; PG. Really, if you can find what period folks thought was funny, it's a revelation. Including reminding you that back then racism was the norm. Please notice the primary author is a lady.
34) Automobiles: Michael Sedgwick; Antique Cars; 1980; Grisewood & Dempsey ltd, London. This reminded me that something so expensive is not going to be Ford black.
35) Houses, furnishings, upper class life: Gail MacColl & Carol McD. Wallace; To Marry an English Lord. The Victorian and Edwardian Experience; 1989; Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd, London.
36) Fashion: Julius M. (Julius Mendes) Price; Dame Fashion: Paris-London, 1786 - 1912; London: S. Low, Marston; 1913.
38) Fast Food: Price List of Drug Store Goods: Including an Entirely New and Second Series of Menus for One Week of Each Season in the Year 1898 ... Compiled Especially for Them by Miss Fannie Merritt Farmer. (1898): Jaynes & Co. (Boston, Mass.)
39) New York: Guide to Greater New York (1900): Walker, George H. & co., pubs.: Boston, Mass., G. H. Walker & co.
40) New York: New York; A Guide in Comprehensive Chapters (1903): Childe, Cromwell: [Brooklyn] Brooklyn Daily Eagle
41) New York: The Greater New York Guide Book (1897): Ober, Corolyn Faville: New York, Boston [etc.] The Morse Co.
42) New York: A Visitor's Guide to the Greater New York, Jersey City and Suburbs; (1896): Gunnison, Herbert Foster,: [Brooklyn, N.Y., Eagle Press;
43) New York: Illustrated Guide to New York. Compliments of Hotel Jefferson, New York, 102-104-106 East Fifteenth Street, one door east of Union Square. John E. Chatfield, proprietor (1895): [New York]
44) Driving in Area: Rand, McNally & Co.'s Handy Guide to the Country around New York, for the Wheelman, Driver, and Excursionist. With Original Maps and Illustrations (1897): Ingersole, Ernest: Chicago, New York, Rand McNally & Co. Cross this with 2000 Miles and I was set.
45) New York Law: Constables' Guide; Containing a Full Exposition of Their Rights, Privileges, Duties and Liabilities, Giving the Statutes, Both Civil and Criminal of the State of New York, with Annotations, Decisions, Explanatory Notes, Forms, and a Digest of Their Fees (1904): Bender, Melvin (Melvin Thomas); Hinman, Harold Jay: Albany, N.Y., M. Bender. Close enough!
46) Martial Arts: Boxing; a Guide to the Manly Art of Self Defense (1900): New York, American Sports Publishing Co
47) Boston: Pictorial Guide to Boston and the Country Around (1902): Boston: G.W. Armstrong Dining Room & News Co.
48) Self-Entertainment: A Practice Guide to Whist by the Latest Scientific Methods. With the Laws of the Game (1891): Ames, Fisher: New York, C. Scribner's son
49) Boston: Rand, McNally Boston Guide to the City and Environs, with Maps and Illustrations ... (1900): New York, Chicago, Rand, McNally & company
50) Public Hospitality: Where and How to Dine in New York; the Principal Hotels, Restaurants and Cafés of Various Kinds and Nationalities Which Have Added to the Gastronomic Fame of New York and Its Suburbs (1903): New York, Lewis, Scribner & co.
|If you need something else for your particular story around this time, maybe Historical Novelists Center can help with their Gilded Age pages.|
Check the Near History sample guides. There's more to read, but mostly lighter stuff, as well as lots more in video. A few appropriate movies from a year are much easier to get through than a detail biography of a president and will tell you more about ordinary life.