Monday, September 1, 2008

The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s

The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s
by Marc McCutcheon

Reviewed by Titania Ladley (

Have you ever wondered what a “puddin’ foot” is? Or “bilboes”? How about a “night hawk”, or what it means to “wake snakes”? In one’s everyday life, maybe not. If you’re a writer looking to authenticate your 19th-century manuscript and enrich the story so the reader feels as if they’ve been whisked back in time, you might want to give The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s a try.

But that’s not all this book offers. For example, would you like to learn if placing a player piano in your western saloon in 1820 is accurate? Hopefully so — this innovation didn't come into existence until 1842. You’ll find clothing descriptions and when they came into fashion; when popular songs, magazines and books were penned; a chronology of important events such as war dates and when states were admitted to America; and when household items were invented, along with their descriptions and where they might commonly be found.

In this reference book, a writer can also learn about everyday modes of transportation in the 1800s, slang to enrich dialogue, available furniture and household inventions, and ordinary — or not so ordinary — food and drinks. Health issues, courting and marriage practices, weapons, slavery, facts on the Civil War and various battles, and monetary usages are also included, to name a few more topics.

While The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s is an entertaining and very interesting book of facts and history references for laymen, it’s more a useful handbook for writers of the historical genre, including the western, adventure, thriller, mystery and romance sub-genres. I highly recommend this excellent resource for authors preparing a manuscript set in the 19th century.


Heather Massey said...

Who needs to be a writer? I have to buy this book. I'm fascinated with everyday life details in any century. I love it when someone publishes a book that compiles information like this into easily digestible chunks. Thanks for this post!

anny cook said...

This sounds like a wonderful book to browse whether you write about that time period or not. Excellent review!

Titania Ladley said...

Thanks Heather and Anny! I just ordered several more of the "Writer's Guide to Everyday Life" books, each covering different time periods. They're so fun to browse through, not to mention they're great for nudging the muse. :)