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Taylor Harbin
01-27-2014, 06:53 AM
Ok, those of you who've been following my threads know I am writing a story set in 1894, upstate New York. I need just a few more tiny pieces of information before I start the first draft. Here's the scoop:

MC is a young boy, 17. He lives with his father (lawyer), his mother, and older brother.

1. Despite having a steady job, would this family still have to grow some of their own food? How many acres would supply them? Would they keep live stock (maybe a cow and some chickens)?

2. Was it still common for school semesters to begin and end based on the planting/harvest schedules of local farmers? Would a boy still be in school at 17?

3. What was the typical wage of a lawyer?

4. What other industries were around at this time? (Need a job for older brother, but this is after the Panic of 1893, so maybe not?)

5. What kind of printing press was commonly used by newspapers? Had electric ones been perfected?

Thanks! You guys are the best.

blacbird
01-27-2014, 07:51 AM
Prompted by a couple of threads you've started here recently, I have to ask a couple of questions:

1. Are you familiar with Google?

2. Do you have a library available to you?

These kinds of questions are exactly why writers do research.

caw

Taylor Harbin
01-27-2014, 08:50 AM
Prompted by a couple of threads you've started here recently, I have to ask a couple of questions:

1. Are you familiar with Google?

2. Do you have a library available to you?

These kinds of questions are exactly why writers do research.

caw

I have indeed heard of Google. In my experience, it is horribly unreliable when asking these kinds of specific questions. That's why I come here, because I don't have to spend hours looking through completely irrelevant search results to get the information I need.

As to libraries, the closest one with documents about this particular subject matter is several hundred miles away, and has yet to return my messages.

I think it's fair to consider asking for help a variation of research. Sorry if that offends you.

jjdebenedictis
01-27-2014, 09:53 AM
I think what Blacbird is trying to get across is that it's fairly rude to expect us to do your homework for you.

Also, if you worry about "horribly unreliable" sources, why are you flinging your questions out to any yoink on the internet who happens to wander by?

blacbird
01-27-2014, 01:24 PM
As to libraries, the closest one with documents about this particular subject matter is several hundred miles away, and has yet to return my messages.

You live in Kentucky. I have also lived in Kentucky. How far away are Lexington, Louisville, Memphis, Bowling Green, all places with major universities. Or, universities in neighboring states, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia? I can look at a map. None of those places are "several hundred miles away."

You want to write historically accurate fiction that requires this kind of information, you go get it. You go look for it. You don't sit on your ass in front of a computer and send questions to libraries and expect responses. Nor does that work very well here.

caw

Cath
01-27-2014, 03:51 PM
Google really isn't that bad at providing information, as long as you know how to use it (and I'm wearing my librarian hat here).

This link might be helpful. (http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/FindInfo.html)

Fruitbat
01-27-2014, 04:34 PM
Ok, those of you who've been following my threads know I am writing a story set in 1894, upstate New York. I need just a few more tiny pieces of information before I start the first draft. Here's the scoop:

MC is a young boy, 17. He lives with his father (lawyer), his mother, and older brother.

1. Despite having a steady job, would this family still have to grow some of their own food? How many acres would supply them? Would they keep live stock (maybe a cow and some chickens)?

2. Was it still common for school semesters to begin and end based on the planting/harvest schedules of local farmers? Would a boy still be in school at 17?

3. What was the typical wage of a lawyer?

4. What other industries were around at this time? (Need a job for older brother, but this is after the Panic of 1893, so maybe not?)

5. What kind of printing press was commonly used by newspapers? Had electric ones been perfected?

Thanks! You guys are the best.

This is very rough but maybe others will join in and improve on it.

1. I was a bit at a loss to start with because back then, I picture a lawyer living in the city, so just having a yard rather than acreage, if even that. And, in the city, he'd have ample access to store bought food. Things were so much more spread out back then, much more either rural or urban rather than suburban, and few people had advanced college degrees.

2. Since the US was largely rural back then, I'd expect the school semesters to cater to that, unless they lived in the city. My grandparents were born about 20 years after your listed year. The ones from the country stopped at the eighth grade and either went to work in a factory or helped on their family farms. The city ones had high school as we have it now but the poorer ones especially tended not to make it all the way through, they'd go to work instead or learn a trade with a relative. It was less likely to be considered necessary than it is today, of course. If he was an attorney, I'd expect the family of an attorney to have household help of some type too. If there was space and need for a vegetable garden, a servant might tend to it rather than the family.

3. I did a quick google on "average wage of an attorney in 1900" and a few things came up but yeah, that one would take a bit of digging around. There was a lot about the average salary back then. Maybe doubling or tripling it or more would work, depending on how high prestigious his position was.

4. Other industries- What jumped into my mind was that it would be likely the oldest son would follow in his father's footsteps. Perhaps he'd be away at a university, studying to become an attorney and join his father's firm. Or, more likely, go to work with his father and be learning that way. According to the infamous Wikipedia:

...Nonetheless, into the year 1900 most states did not require a university education (although an apprenticeship was often required) and most practitioners had not attended any law school or college.

5. No idea about printing presses. This quick source below says only 3% of American homes had electricity in 1900.

http://americandigest.org/mt-archives/american_studies/america_in_1900.php


A fun way to get an overall feel for the atmosphere and conditions at the turn of the century might be to watch some old movies set around that time. I'm thinking "Meet Me in St. Louis," about a prosperous family at the time of the 1904 world's fair. It's on my cable, don't remember if I had to pay or not.

Buffysquirrel
01-27-2014, 04:37 PM
The printing press would probably be a Wharfedale. As you can see from this video -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtB33fb1LEs --they were hand-cranked.

Helix
01-27-2014, 04:43 PM
The printing press would probably be a Wharfedale. As you can see from this video -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtB33fb1LEs --they were hand-cranked.

Newspaper presses would have been powered. By the 1890s circulations were very high and hand-cranked presses wouldn't have been very efficient, although it would have been a damned sight easier to hold the front page.

According to this (http://books.google.com.au/books?id=FYM119rjXwwC&pg=PA123&lpg=PA123&dq=electrical+newspaper+printing+press+1890s&source=bl&ots=EAk2gGXJh8&sig=qCeUXLpA_VR8XRzRdcDsq3fAMUo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=VFPmUoSfDMnTkQXcrIC4Bw&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=electrical%20newspaper%20printing%20press%201890 s&f=false), Hearst managed to get an electrical press going in 1896. Presumably before that, the big newspaper presses were steam-powered.

beckethm
01-27-2014, 04:54 PM
I've found Google Books very useful for some of the kinds of information you're seeking. Use the Advanced search feature, set the date filters to roughly a decade before and a decade after your target year, and choose the option to see only free ebooks. You should be able to find contemporary travel guides, which might answer your question about local industries, as well as salary surveys and books about newspaper operations.

Questions about daily life can often be answered by reading contemporary fiction from your period. Louisa May Alcott, Horatio Alger, and Mark Twain were writing just a little earlier than the 1890s, but their depictions of small town life are probably still relevant. Henry James wrote in the 1890s. Booth Tarkington, Edith Wharton (Ethan Frome), and Sinclair Lewis were just a bit later. None of them were specifically upstate New York, but there weren't huge differences in how people lived between New York, New England, and the Midwest.

Apologies if I'm saying something you already know, but the benefit to you as a writer from digging into such contemporary sources is that you can really immerse yourself in the language and attitudes of the time. You might discover things you didn't know you were looking for that take your work in new directions. Asking questions in isolation, you may find what you think you need to know, but you won't find what you don't know.

Good luck.

King Neptune
01-27-2014, 05:14 PM
Ok, those of you who've been following my threads know I am writing a story set in 1894, upstate New York. I need just a few more tiny pieces of information before I start the first draft. Here's the scoop:

MC is a young boy, 17. He lives with his father (lawyer), his mother, and older brother.

1. Despite having a steady job, would this family still have to grow some of their own food? How many acres would supply them? Would they keep live stock (maybe a cow and some chickens)?

A lawyer might have also owned a farm, but maybe not. Considering you're dealing with a rural area, he probably would have had a garden (actually his wife would have), and there probably would have been some fruit trees. He certainly would have kept his own horses, at least a pair.


2. Was it still common for school semesters to begin and end based on the planting/harvest schedules of local farmers? Would a boy still be in school at 17?

School terms were about what they are now, but some children would have taken time out for harvest in September and October.


3. What was the typical wage of a lawyer?

It could have been anything from $1000 up, but the $1000 to 4000 range is probable. You probably can get some idea from a google search, but detailed statistics aen't available that long ago.


4. What other industries were around at this time? (Need a job for older brother, but this is after the Panic of 1893, so maybe not?)

Exactly where? You can look this up somewhere to see what businesses were where, but there were many small industrial operations all over tha country more than 100 years ago.


5. What kind of printing press was commonly used by newspapers? Had electric ones been perfected?


The printing industry was changing fairly quickly then; remember Twain's folly. There were powered presses of various types.

Helix
01-27-2014, 05:39 PM
Surely the lawyer's income would depend on his clients?

Buffysquirrel
01-27-2014, 07:16 PM
Atticus Finch was paid in kind quite often, iirc.

Taylor Harbin
01-27-2014, 07:23 PM
Many thanks to those who helped. I'll try to restrain myself from now on.

But since it was asked, I'm in the very western tip of Kentucky. Bowling Green is at least 2.5 hours one way.

ULTRAGOTHA
01-27-2014, 10:52 PM
Google books has become less and less useful to me. My preferred go-to for out of copyright books now is archive.org. They have many of the books that Google Books scanned and, as a plus, the books they scanned themselves are done with much better technology than Google used.

The search function is weird and I find it easier to use Google search with the archive.org location.

Helix
01-28-2014, 12:53 AM
Many thanks to those who helped. I'll try to restrain myself from now on.

But since it was asked, I'm in the very western tip of Kentucky. Bowling Green is at least 2.5 hours one way.


A trip into Bowling Green could be a day very well spent if you have a lot of research to do, especially as new questions often present themselves as you uncover the answers to the original set. Browsing through texts sparks ideas too.

[Warning: Four Yorkshiremen-style anecdote ahead. Read on at own risk.]

Even when I worked at a uni with a substantial library, I flew down to Brisbane several times a year to work at the UQ library. Although a gazillion more papers, books and documents are now accessible online, nothing beats browsing.