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Tuesday Ten–ten things I don’t know.

Generally our blog is about what we know and what we’ve learned about the Victorian Era. Today’s Tuesday Ten is about things I want to learn. Maybe there’s a reader out there who can help me out? Or maybe you’ve got questions too about the era you’d like to add. I’ll try to answer the ones I know—We can use today’s Tuesday Ten as a way to share information.

1.)Train Travel—I have a lot of questions on this. First one is baggage. I know there were baggage compartments. How did people get their baggage in the compartment? How did they get the baggage out of the compartment? And if they were switching trains, did the bagged automatically switch with them, or did they have to move it themselves.

2.) Train maps—These can be difficult to find. I want to know which stations my characters go through, where they grab a train at any given time. I know that pretty much after the first transcontinental railroad was established, a LOT of traffic went through Union Station in Chicago. I know that many people switched trains in Chicago. But what about other places?

3.) Condoms—Okay jumping out of strictly family friendly here for nitpicky questions. We know they had them and that mid-century they were readily available in NYC, and that they were called “French safes” among other things. We know that in 1873 or such they were outlawed with the Comstock Laws. We know people could still get them, however. I know that their manufacture could sometimes be iffy because people could make them in basements and such to sell illegally but that didn’t mean they understood how to work with rubber. Thus breakage with cheaper, lower quality condoms would have been much more likely. But my real question is, what did they look like? How did they come? Did you buy packages, boxes? Right now I’m just making it up as I go along, but I sure would like to know the truth. It’s not an easy thing to learn.

4.) Prisons—I haven’t actually done a lot of research on it, but I’m curious. What were prisons like in the continental U.S.?

5.) Hanging—I’ve read anecdotal information about women being hanged. But I’ve also read that capital punishment for women was pretty much frowned on. So if a woman murdered someone, was she generally hanged, or sent to prison? And, back to question 4, if she went to prison, what was it like?

6.) Electricity—I know it was being used in the late part of the era. But where? How widely available? And just because they had electricity in the city, who actually had it in their living areas? Was it mostly for public buildings and the very rich? Or did it move quickly so that even the middle class had electricity in their homes?

7.) Gas lighting—like electricity, I don’t know when it hit certain cities, although I imagine by around 1860 or so (I’m just throwing a date out there) it was widely available in major cities. But again—who had gas lighting? Did the middle class have it? Or was it really just the upper middle class? And since electric lighting came in late century, if you didn’t have gas lighting, but were “moving up” and upgrading your home, did you go with gas lighting, or electric lighting. Did both exist at the same time?

8.) Hot water—I’ve been able to place running water in Boston in the 1850’s and I’m pretty sure most cities have pipes etc by mid 1860’s. But at what point was it hot and cold running water? Did everyone have it? When was it “standard” in a house in a city? I’ve actually toured a museum in Boston circa 1860. It had a tub, it had hot and cold running water. But I’m not at all certain it was authentic although they said it was. I know the house was built at that point, but it was not turned into a museum until much later, so I’m not sure if it was upgraded later or not.

9.) Pumps—if you lived in the rural areas or even outside of major cities, did you have a pump in your house to pump in water? Or did you go out to a well? Did they have pumps in the lower-class homes of city dwellers?

10.) Dance cards—this one is something I think I can find fairly easily, though. I know they used dance cards at balls. I know that people filled them in. I know that it was frowned on to dance with a person more than twice at a ball and that husbands and wives weren’t supposed to dance together (because they were there to be with other people, not each other). But how did this work? Did a man walk up to a woman at the beginning of the ball and ask to have his name put on her card? Did she fill up all the dances? Did a man write in his card at the same time? Did a man have a card? And did he feel obligated to have a partner for every dance, or did he leave his card empty if he wasn’t in the mood?

Well those are my questions. This was my easiest Tuesday Ten ever. I guess I have a lot more questions than I have knowledge, even after all these years. If anyone has any answers, I’ve LOVE them. Otherwise, as I’ll post answers myself as time goes by.

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4 Comments

  1. Nicole McCaffrey says:

    Wow! This list makes me feel so much better, LOL. I’ve worried about some of these very things myself and figured I was the only historical writer on the planet who didn’t know them!

    Great list, Dee. Heck I could fill volumes about the stuff I don’t know, LOL.

  2. Denise Eagan says:

    Oh shoot, Nic, you were supposed to give me answers! Oh well, maybe when we have time (in 10 years or so) we can split up the list and come up with answers, huh?

  3. Georgie Lee says:

    Great questions. I don’t know if this answer the condom one but in Ketchican Alaska, the madam Dolly Arthur’s bawdy house is a museum. The museum has a number of examples of “tools of the trade” including condoms made out of silk and tied with a ribbon. I think they were reusable. I don’t know how effective they were.

  4. Alicia R says:

    About gas vs. electricity –

    When I visited Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria BC (which was amazing!!) one of the volunteers showed us the light fixtures. Almost all of them had both gas wicks and bulbs for electricity, because electricity was so spotty. So if one didn’t work, hopefully the other would.

    Craigdarroch Castle was finished in 1890 and cost about half a million to build at the time, so I’m not at all sure even most upper-class households at the time would have both gas and electric, but it did exist.

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