Here’s the book that first helped me flesh out my idea:

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Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women’s Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s, by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz.

The guiding idea of this book is that the architecture and modifications made to buildings at women’s colleges over the decades reflected each school’s philosophy about educating women and shaping their private lives, within a culture that was conflicted about women as academics.  In addition to the architectural slant, Horowitz provides wonderful detail about traditions and day-to-day life in the Seven Sisters colleges.  A wonderful resource.



These two books I continue to consult, again and again:

1897 Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalogue

1897 Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalogue

The 1897 Sears, Roebuck & Company Catalogue.

Sears offers a treasure trove of goods, from abdominal corsets to Zulu guns.  The pictures are hand-drawn, and include plenty of written descriptions.  The catalog gives one a sense of the products, fashions, and items needed in day-to-day 19thc life.  We also encounter the terminology and turns of phrase in use at the time.




Victorian Fashions & Costumes from Harper’s Bazar, 1867-1898, Stella Blum, ed.

These are fashion plates from Harper’s Bazaar Magazine, and organized into various fashion decades:  “Bustles and Puffs,” “Natural Form and Cuirass,” “Return of the Bustle,” and “Hourglass Figure.”  The descriptive captions are original to the plates, and there is a helpful glossary of terms.  Good thing – anyone know what a cuirass is?


Other great books:


American Victorian Costume in Early Photographs, Priscilla Harris Dalrymple.

This collection has the benefit of being actual photographs, rather than sketches.  It too is divided into decades of the 19th century, with ample captions to explain the fashion trend details.




home on the rails

Richter, Amy G. Home on the Rails: Women, the Railroad, and the Rise of Public Domesticity. University of North Carolina Press, 2005.






These free digitized books were really helpful, too:



Geer’s Hartford City Directory (1896).  Not only does it contain names, addresses, and phone numbers, but the advertisements are interesting, too.







Historical Sketch of the police service of Hartford, 1636-1901Thomas S. Weaver.  It’s loaded with photographs, rosters, and humorous anecdotes of criminals and policemen.






The Book of Household Management, by Mrs. Beeton.  It went through numerous editions, but the one available  digitally is from 1888.  In addition to overall background for my novels, I’ve used it in several posts, especially this one.



Appletons’ General Guide to the United States and Canada: New England and Middle states and Canada. D. Appleton and Company, 1898.


 A Brief Illustrated History of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.


Car Service Rules of the Operating Department of Pullman’s Palace Car Company, Revised Sept. 1st, 1893. Pullman Company. W.H. Pottinger, printer, 1893.


Rand-McNally Official Railway Guide and Hand Book. American Railway Guide Company, 1902.






Manners and Social Usages, Mrs. John Sherwood. Harper and Bros, 1901.

Google books link for full text:


Links, in no particular order:

Victorian Web

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (1836-1922)

The New York Times Archive (1850-1980) *NOTE: NYT now charges a membership fee to use this archive*

Memorial Hall Museum (American history; includes activities for school-age children)

Library of Congress (pics, sketches, documents, articles, even audio files)

Connecticut Trolley Museum (street rail in Connecticut)

Restaurant-ing Through History (Jan Whitaker’s blog)

The Nineteenth Century in Print (digitized periodicals)

Wellesley College’s Digital Collections (great school pics from the 19th century)

19th century websites (I know: a website collection of websites, but it’s handy to have a lot of them in one place, and categorized)

The National Women’s History Museum: the History of Women and Education (with biographies and a timeline)

Connecticut Historical Society – Online Catalogs

University of Connecticut – Digital Mosaic (digitized image collections of maps and photographs)

Five College Archives Digital Access Project (collections from Amherst, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, UMass, and Hampshire College)

American National Biography Online

Central Pacific Railroad Photographic Museum.

 A correct map of the United States, showing the Union Pacific, the overland route and connections. Knight, Leonard and Company, 1892.

The Pullman Era. Chicago Historical Society.

Yale University Library – Nineteenth Century America (primary source databases)

One Comment

  1. Watcha Gonna Do When They Come For You* | Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

    […] Interestingly enough, the police procedural as we think about it now is newer than some of the other sub-genres in crime fiction. For example, the private detective novel has been around since the days of Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. But that makes sense. Modern police forces weren’t really put together until the 19th Century and it took even longer for them to become the kinds of police forces we think of today. If you want to know more about 19th Century police forces, check out K.B. Owen’s terrific blog/website. She’s an expert on the era. […]


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