Thursday, 30 January 2014

Life In The 1890's, Would You Have Liked It?

Reading history will make anyone appreciate our lifestyle of today.

A while ago Bob and I were sent a goody box from N.Y. A box full of books.and as any lover of reading knows, those gifts are priceless. At the moment I am reading the most fascinating book. It is a telling of the years spanning the building of Chicago's 1893 World Fair.

Eric Larson: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
. Yes it is a historical rendition, but it reads like a novel. Did I mention that the book also re-traces the steps of the notorious serial killer of the time: Dr.H.H. Holmes...oh yes, the plot thickens!

But, you'll have to read it yourself. What I find so interesting is the way of life back then. Little details that we take for granted. Details that make such a huge difference:

  • Indoor plumbing. Not just the lavatory, but also having a water tap inside. Remember, with indoor plumbing come pipes that escort the offending lot away to somewhere without being seen. Before, you had to do that yourself in the case of a chamber pot / washing up water / bath water. The rather more modern outhouse seemed luxurious in comparison to a chamber pot. At least I would imagine it to be so.
  • Streets were different then. The car was just being invented and started to take hold. The main mode of transport were horses. Horses that dropped their steaming apples where ever the need took them. The stench alone would have been awful. As the horses dropped dead from exhaustion, they would often be left to rot on the verge of the road.
  • No electricity for the masses yet. Reading by candle light?

The book makes wonderful sojourns into the everyday life of the main characters and describes in detail what they had for dinner. In those days, dinner was taken with care. Dinner was taken without haste. Dinner was enjoyed and consisted of several courses.

Personal battles were fought slightly different back then. A time before the mass communication, internet, and smartphones. An email, text or phone call doesn't quite have the power of a personal snub!

" A battle followed, fought in true Gilded Age fashion with oblique snubs and poisonous courtesy. Mrs Palmer pecked and pestered and catapulted icy smiles into Hayden's deepening gloom."
Isn't this description simply divine? Eric Larson uses his words in a way that as a reader you step right into his depicted world. A treat indeed.