Time Stops Here

Monday, April 14, 2014

I bet you can’t guess my favorite research site from the past month. It isn’t one that comes immediately to mind.
But now that I’m working on a historical novel, I’ve found that eBay is a great tool for discovering what life was like back when.
Several weeks ago, I was researching the types of picnic supplies people used in the 1920s. My novel takes place in the early 1940s, but my main character’s father would have bought the picnic basket in the 1920s when he was courting her mother. So I needed to know what type of equipment people used in the 1920s and what material the plates and cups would have been made of.
I started with a Google search for “1920 picnic baskets.” The results included eBay and other auction sites that sold vintage picnic baskets. By looking at the pictures and reading the descriptions, I was able to gather most of the information I needed.
In my second experience, I used eBay the way it was intended. I participated in my first auction and purchased a 1942 Montgomery Ward Spring & Summer Catalog.
My main character has to do her shopping by mail order, and I wanted to know what was sold in the catalogs of the time. Naturally, I started with the free resources. First, I looked online for a scanned copy of either a Montgomery Ward or a Sears Roebuck catalog from the period. When that didn’t work, I checked the card catalog for the Harold Washington Public Library in Chicago, hoping to find something in the library’s extensive microfilm collection. No luck there, either.
But I did find a current auction on eBay. It took several bids to win the prize, but my 1942 Montgomery Ward catalog will be worth every cent I spent on it.
Because a catalog is both a time capsule and a great way to get a feel for the period.

No comments:

Post a Comment