Links to the entire set of notes
Page numbers refer to the page in the PDF and print versions.
43—stripped down to his union suit. I did a fair amount of research on period-appropriate underwear. In Alby’s time, a one-piece union suit would have been most likely. The two-piece version is called long johns, possibly after a boxer named John L. Sullivan. Long johns eventually became more popular than union suits. Incidentally, women wore union suits as well.
49—a pale stone church with a tall copper-roofed steeple. I modeled this after the Church of the Transfiguration, built in 1801 on Mott Street. Interestingly, from the 1890s until 1902, the Irish parish leaders made Italians worship in the basement rather than the main sanctuary. One of the church leaders also tried to get Chinese immigrants forcibly removed from the neighborhood.
50—In one of those Fifth Avenue mansions. If you were a Gilded Age millionaire, Fifth Avenue was the place to live. Your neighbors would have been folks like the Vanderbilts and the Astors. Only one of these mansions survives intact today (it sold for $50 million last year), but you can see some period photos here and here.
54—He dropped the bundle into a brown paper shopping bag with thin rope handles. I spent far too much time researching how people transported purchases in 1888. Turns out paper bags were first mass-produced in 1852. If you want to be picky, the kind with the cord handles wasn’t patented until 1912, but we’ll allow me a bit of artistic license on that bit.
56—Have you never been in an elevator before? Elisha Otis invented the safety elevator in 1852. Before that, elevators were used to move goods; Otis’s invention made them safe for human transport. New York City saw its first office building with a passenger elevator in 1870. And of course it was the elevator that allowed high-rises to be practical. Early elevators were run by an operator. Although fully automated ones were available as early as 1900, they didn’t become widely used until the 40s.
57—I saw it in a mail-order catalog. Mail-order catalogs were born in the mid 19th century. They were a convenience to consumers, and they allowed sellers to increase their profits by bypassing middlemen. Here’s a nice article on their history. This article discusses mail-order catalogs in the Wild West. What I think is cool is the range of stuff you could order. I once lived in a little house in Nebraska that was built in 1888 and was quite possibly ordered from a catalog.
58—Do you remember a few years ago when roller skating was all the rage? Roller skates were invented in the mid-1700s. Skating became a fad in the 1880s, when the skates were first mass-produced. Here’s a fun little article about it. And although Xeno assumes the craze didn’t hit Nebraska, according to this fun article, the West was not immune. Roller-skating cowboys!
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And stay tuned for additional notes!
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