Little Details

A Fact-Checking Community for Writers

Entries by tag: usa: history (misc)

North American Indigenous Herbal Medicines
Pretty Blue Tom
Setting: Not exactly Earth, but a region with great similarities to the Great Basin and Rocky Mountains. Time period is indeterminate, but pre modern medicine.

I'm looking to create an arsenal of medicines so I don't have to spend hours and hours researching every time I come across a new ailment. One of my MCs is the equivalent of a doctor/medicine man, so it is rather important that I know something about her practice. I've found a few helpful things, such as desert parsley/lomatium, osha root, and arrowleaf balsamroot, but it's very slow going, especially when so many sources just say something like, "this is a plant, with these identifying features, and Native Americans used to use it for medicine!" without any mention of which part of the plant was used, how it was prepared, or even what it was used for. Previous research has been googling of variations on "Native American medicine," "Great Basin indigenous medicine," "Rocky Mountains indigenous medicine," and the like.

What I am looking for are any North American medicinal herbs in general, though I would love it if y'all know of any native to the Great Basin and/or Rocky Mountains in specific. Also, I would like to know: 1. What they are used for (sore throat, upset stomach, cough, etc.) 2. What part of the plant is used (leaves, flowers, root, etc.) 3. How it is used (eaten raw, smoked in a pipe, steeped into a tea, etc.), and optionally, 4. What specific ceremonies or rituals were practiced with or around it (does it need to be harvested at a certain time of day or year, should it be ceremonially washed or parts of it burned before or during use, anything else you might know about it) Obviously I don't need #4, but I would be very interested to know any surrounding rituals.

Thanks in advance for any help!

Fact checking Comanche mourning traditions
Setting: 1860-1870

Researched: Googled "Comanche death rites", "Comanche funeral rites", "Comanche traditional death rituals", re-read Herman Lehmann's first person narrative.

Situation/background: My (male) MC is a bounty hunter who brings in the dead body of a Comanche warrior with a bounty on his head. MC also happens to be a "white Indian" (who was adopted into a Comanche tribe at a young age and later rejoined white society; this is show canon for the character) and the bounty he brings in happens to be his adopted brother. Now I'd like for my MC to have shown his grief at killing his brother by cutting his arms/torso as was the custom among the Comanche people (from what I've been able to find, ritualistic cutting was a traditional sign of grief). However, except for a single reference in Wikipedia, it appears that this custom was only practiced by the dead man's female relatives, and was not practiced by the males of the tribe. I'm now suffering on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, I really don't want to incorrectly portray traditional customs, especially if having my MC cut himself in mourning would be taboo or somehow indicate that he considered himself female (especially since that would require researching transgender roles in Comanche society in the 1860s and that's a rabbit hole I'd prefer to not go down right now), but on the other hand until I tried to find a secondary support for Wikipedia's assertion I had planned on using this as a means of moving the story forward.

So I guess I have two questions:

1. Does anybody have a good primary source for Comanche funeral rites that would tell me one way or the other if only the women of the tribe would cut themselves as part of the mourning rites?

2. If my MC knows he's the only person who will know that this particular Comanche is dead (or knows that this particular warrior has no female relatives to mourn him), would it be acceptable for him to show his grief by ritualistic cutting (in addition to other mourning/funeral rites) even if that's something only the women do, or would he never even consider this course of action?

History cirriculum in 1930's Brooklyn public school?
Gentle Rose
Setting: 1930's Brooklyn
Searched: history of education, Brooklyn public schools 1930s, education during great depression, teaching the trail of tears

In my story, I have Captain America a WWII soldier from Brooklyn ending up in the 21st century. He is getting tutored in the several decades of history he missed, but in the process, Darcy his history tutor mentions the Trail of Tears, and he has no idea what it is. [Said tutor starts to go over more history with him...]

Said tutor starts to go over more history with him, and much of the story is Steve, the soldier, realizing how much he doesn't known about the country he is supposed to represent. Much of the story surrounds him trying to make-up the difference, so to speak.

He went to public school in Brooklyn, and is of Irish working class descent. While he was always very poor, he had some money left over from his dead parents, and with the help of Bucky a friend who was able to help support him, he managed to finish high school and even get in a bit of art school before having to drop out to work.

Is this gap in his education feasible? I know that there are schools today that gloss over American genocides and human rights tragedies, or skip them all together - my mother, just a few years ago, was barred from teaching a class about the Trail of Tears. But is that a recent thing or is it feasible that Steve did not learn this, as well as a lot of other stuff that puts America/the West in a bad light, in the history cirriculum he would have received in public school during the Great Depression?

And going on that, how familiar would someone with that educational background be with world history in general? A different section of the story has him learning more about non-European-centric world history, but this idea was another reflection of modern education (namely my own frustrations with how similar World History and European History were in high school, when the latter was supposed to be only a portion of the former instead of the majority of it). Would a Euro-centric view on world history have been standard during that era and in that area? If not, what would World History have taught? Or would someone like Steve have learned World History at all, or is the idea of World History another modern educational standard?</lj-spoilers>

Cost of hiring a private detective in 1931
Where: Chicago, USA
When: 1931
Searched for: "private detective fees 1930s", "cost to hire a private detective 1930s", other variations along those lines; also went through the tags here

Frustratingly, I have found every other cost-of-living item I need to know for 1931 fairly easily. There are oodles of information out there on what people paid for food, utilities, rent, etc., what wages were for various occupations with standardized wages, and so forth. But this one plot-necessary item is proving to be elusive. My search terms have returned me lots of information on hiring private detectives in the modern day, or on famous 1930s fictional detectives, none of which is useful.

This is a detective in business for himself rather than working for a big well-known agency, which I assume would make a difference in what he's able to charge.

Ages during the American Revolution
marcus 2013
A useful resource for anyone writing about the early years of the USA - a list of notable Americans and their ages at the time of the American Revolution:

U.S. civil rights movement questions
I'm writing a story set in the mid-to-late 1960s (beginning in 1966) in which several of the characters are involved in the U.S. civil rights movement (with most of them it's specifically the SCLC, although one of them flirted with a more militant group first). I've got a huge stack of books that I'm working my way through, and I think I can take care of most of the "little details" on my own, but I'm finding myself in need of someone I can talk with about some of the bigger things, such as what things felt like or how people in that environment might have reacted to x, y, or z.

some of the details on my first questionCollapse )

There are three different kinds of people I'd love to hear from: one, anyone who was actually there at the time, two, anyone who's got a lot of book-knowledge about the movement, or three, anyone who thinks they could extrapolate from their own more recent experiences. If you'd be willing to have a conversation (first here, of course, but if needed in email, Skype, AIM, your choice) with me about this and any other issues that come up, that would be terrific.

Thanks in advance to anyone who's willing to chime in.

Notable streets and crimes in New York, 1930s - 1940s
Holmes: Discombobulate
Been doing a bit of Googling on this myself, but as a Brit, this is a little foreign to me. Every city has its notable, unique streets - I'm wondering about ones in New York. Are there any particular spots that are good for certain shops, or where important events happened? (If anyone can help me with this, I'd also like to know about some streets that were the sites of fairly important/notorious crimes in the 1930s to the late 40s.)

Sawmill workers in the early 1900's
David 8: birthday
My MC will be seeing through the eyes of another character (memories and dreams) working in a sawmill in 1914. The location is upper Michigan, and the sawmill worker is a local carpenter who needs some extra cash through the winter.

After using several search terms, I still can't seem to find what I'm looking for. I've googled Sawmills in 1900's, worker and working conditions of sawmills in the 1900's, historic sawmills of upper michigan, historic sawmills (general), early sawmill tools, early sawmills, operating sawmills in 1900's, early sawmill occupations, a day in the life of a sawmill worker, sawmill workers, and about every variation of these.

I've seen pictures of usually a small to moderate sized crew for these sawmills, and I need to know what job titles these workers held (those using the saws, or those maintaining the engines for the saws, those piling the wood for transport, etc.), what their job consisted of (daily duties), and what sort of wage would they be paid?

What equipment besides the circular saws would workers be using?

Then I would like to know what to call this character's boss. Manager? Foreman? Supervisor?

Would they wear ear protection because of the high whining of the saws? Would it be something they are supplied with or would they have to make their own? Would they have goggles or some sort of eye protection provided by their supervisor or mill owner?

And any miscellaneous info like terminology for that time would be useful. Nicknames for machines, or tools, or worker titles. What they might do during breaks or downtime.

Two questions
Writing some fanfic & need a couple of questions answered:

First - When was JB Fletcher born (what year)? My best guess so far is that she was born around 1928 (based on her reported age when the first book was published (The Corpse Danced at Midnight). I've searched "JB Fletcher's birthdate" "Jessica Fletcher born in what year" "What year was Jessica Fletcher born" - I need JB Fletcher's birthdate, not Angela's ;>

Second - What credentials were needed to teach high school English in 1947 in Maine (assuming JB was born in 1928 ;>)? 4 year BA or a 2 year? Did it matter if you were a woman? I've searched "credentials for teaching in 1947" "Teach in 1947 in the US" "school teacher in 1947" "license for school teacher in 1947" and can't find what's needed to get hired to teach in Maine.

Ranching & Cedar Trees - Need Some Specifics
Mr Wubbles 2.0
Hi, I'm hoping to find some more information so I can determine if it's viable for a fic. I found one article about cedars and their hazards in ranching, but the rest so far has just been advertisements, praising why grow cedar trees.

My MC is a rancher in the midwest in the late 1940s (no specific state has been determined). I'm trying to figure out what problems he might encountering in clearing a pasture.

There was a blog about cutting down cedar trees to clear a pasture. (

I can't find the answer, but where exactly are cedar trees found growing naturally? What season (spring, winter) do they pollinate? Are they really that damaging for ranches?

Searches Done:
Googled - 'season cedar trees', 'location cedar trees', 'cedar trees plague ranches' (how I found above link, only one though) - 'what's a cedar tree's season?'

Again, all I've been encountering were complimentary florist articles talking about how great they are. I actually need to know the opposite.

UPDATE 1/02/2013: Guys, wow! Fantastic response of exactly what I needed! Thank you for the guidance!

Funeral homes and mortuary science, California 1926
gothic cover
I've got a character who is a mortician in 1926, in Los Angeles, California. By all accounts in what I've been able to stir up via Google, the whole funeral home/funeral parlor business was still somewhat new, or at least not as set in stone as it would later become in the '50s/'60s in the US, and most of the information I've been able to find on embalming/funeral practices prior to the late 20th century is considerably earlier and skewed to Civil War-era concerns.

- Can anyone refer me to some general resources on funeral homes and related subjects in that particular era? Especially resources dealing with the West Coast specifically. (Specific search terms would also be great -- the evolution of preferred terms and euphemisms around anything death-related leaves me without a solid idea of what I should even be searching for.)

- In terms of ethnic/cultural background and class demographics, what kind of clientele did funeral homes usually serve at this time? It sounds like funeral homes were generally separated by race in the US, and that faith and religious denomination were factors as they are today; which groups had their own funeral homes, and which participated in funeral practices privately? Was this usually related to ties with a specific cemetery? Would mortuary staff generally be from the demographic and ethnic group they were working with?

- What kind of background am I looking at for my mortician character? Family members who were also involved in the funeral industry, any other experience as a physician, a family-owned business? What did mortician-specific training look like at that particular point in time?

Major apologies if this is muddled or unclear -- I'm getting ready for a White Wolf tabletop game and it seems appropriate to do some research on mortuary practices and funeral homes that wasn't just broad-strokes spookiness.

Terms Googled: "funeral home 1920s" (and variants thereupon, 'funeral parlor/mortuary/undertaker/funeral director'), "historic funeral home", + "california", "historic mortuaries california", general embalming info etc.

(I've also got JSTOR access, if there's any relevant articles anyone can point me to.)

Harvest on American Farms, 1800's
Bleak House letter
In the midst of writing, I realized the other day that I know nothing about crop harvesting practices when small/family farms in farming communities were the norm in breadbasket America, and before the use of heavy machinery. 

I'm pretty sure the internet knows the answers to my questions, but alas, the internet is not responding very well. (To be fair, my questions have consisted of pretty general search terms like "United States," "historical," "agriculture," "farm," "harvest," "crops," "cereal," "grain," "planting," "season.") I get a lot of agricultural timelines, crop calendars for particular states, and descriptions of modern farming. 

My questions are these:

1. What crops were grown at the same time? Would you ever have a harvest with multiple crops? How many crops did one farmer with a family farm grow at one time?

2. How long did harvest last? How was it done? How many steps were involved in the process?

3. How many people did it take per acre or so? Was harvest generally a community affair, or something that was done by the family alone? I think my mother once told me that in her grandparents’ town everyone basically went from one farm to another during harvest time. Was this generally so?

4. How did hired hands come in? 

5. BONUS: If anyone can tell me about how kerosene was stored, poured, and used in lamps, I would be so grateful.

Despite the number of questions, I'm not planning on focusing heavily on harvest/farming, so I really only need general knowledge - but I would of course appreciate any direction at all. Thank you all!

Experiences at Alaskan boarding schools for native children?
Searched for: Alaska Native boarding schools, boarding school experiences Alaska, Alaskan residential schools, Alaska Native boarding school experiences and a host of other similar terms. Asked on ndnz.

Setting: Same as last question

In one scene of The North Western Alexa, Alexa's grandmother on her mother's side, who is a Yup'ik from Bristol Bay, tells her a story about her experiences in a boarding school in the 1930s, where she was treated horribly (understatement). The problem is that I can find very few resources on Alaska Native boarding school experiences. So does anyone know of resources that concentrate on this part of Alaskan Native history or a community which might be able to help me?


What did children call their parents?
Oh darn...
This is a question that has caused me a lot of consternation. 
Problem: I'm having trouble figuring out how my MC would address his parents in conversation (as opposed to written correspondence.) 
For the present I've oscillated between Mom/Dad and Mother/Father when applicable but Mom/Dad seems too... contemporary. If I could find historical confirmation that this was used informally, that would be fantastic and would eliminate the contemporary feeling (in my mind) but, as I am posting this, I have yet to find that confirmation. Other variations ma/pa, mama/papa, etc. feel appropriate during childhood but what about during adulthood? The story spans approximately 24 years of my MC's life. 

Setting: 1880s-1910s United States of America; rural northern Pennsylvania
(More specifically, agricultural community. Characters in question are of Western European descent, several generations removed from immigration.)

Searches Attempted: (Google) variations on: children names for parents, what did children call their parents, how did children address their parents, names for parents; all Google searches tried on their own as well as with time period tags (late 19th century, late 1800s, early 1900s, early 20th century, 1900s, 1880s, 1890s, etc.); all Google searches re-tried with varying additions of rural, country, agricultural, agrarian, Pennsylvania, lower class(es), United States.   
Also read into etiquette for the time period in question, looked at books featuring child characters published during time period, looked at letters written during time period. (Google Books, public library, (my) University Library website)

The problem with my searches were that the results tended towards upper class usage or gave me Victorian Britain results which cannot necessarily be accurate across the board. It seems to be very easy to find historical details about the upper classes and sketchy details about the lower. 
The story is not a true historical fiction, as there is the addition of a fantastical element (shape shifters), but I've been trying to be as accurate as my research will allow.

Thanks for the input everyone, I've got a lot to go on now!

"Whites only" performances in WWII New York, especially for soldiers?
Gentle Rose
Setting: details needed for an anecdote taking place in New York City during WWII (though the actual fic is set in the present day, and someone else is telling this story - it's a Captain America/Avengers fanfic)
Searched: Googled various combinations and permutations of "racial discrimination in theaters/performances in 1940s New York".

At this point (mid-WWII), while people have read and heard about the Howling Commandos, there isn't that much video footage or photographs going around, so most people haven't seen them yet. I'm looking specifically of some kind of really upscale, highly-coveted show or restaurant of some kind that would invite Captain America for typical "you're our hero (and hey, great publicity!)" reasons, and invite the Howling Commandos along with him. Steve initially accepts because of how awesome the invite is. But at the last minute, he finds out the establishment is "whites only", and not all of his team would be allowed in, so he passes the seats/tickets along to an all-white unit. But in an attempt to spare anyone embarrassment, Steve is really vague about why he's turning it down. Because he himself is white, this makes his his refusal seem completely random and out of the blue. Are there any good theaters, concert halls, restaurants, ect., that could fit this sort of scenario?

And of the places that might be high-brow and whites only, are there any in particular that might be considered as very conducive to assassination attempts? This entire thing becomes urban legend/apocryphal story fuel when the team 'sent' in his place become victims of what was meant to be an assassination attempt of Captain America on 'home soil'. (To the general public, it looks like Captain America knew about the plot and thwarted it.)

ETA: This is an MCU/Movieverse fic, for clarification. ^_^

Illegitimacy in Colonial America?
Hey, all,

I'm working on crafting backstory for a vampire character right now who lived (when she was human) in New England in the early 17th century, and I've gotten completely stumped on one aspect of it, namely: what happened, anyway, with children born illegitimately in the colonies? (The vampire would've been the mother, not the child, if that makes a difference.)

What kind of legal problems befell women who became pregnant outside of marriage? Were they obliged to keep the children, or encouraged to give them away? Something else? If the father wasn't known, did the child inherit the mother's surname, or was it assigned one by the community?

I've tried reading the Wikipedia article on Colonial American Bastardy Laws, this article (which would've been more helpful if it had bothered to specify which country it was talking about), skimmed a bunch of records at the Old Bailey just for ideas about English common law that might've applied (using "bastard" as the search string, all of the results were about infanticide), the Wikipedia summary of "The Scarlet letter," and Google search strings "illegitimate children in colonial america," "children of prostitutes in colonial america," and "adoption in colonial america," which mostly pulled up a lot of very fascinating articles that don't mention any of the specifics I'm looking for.

Can anyone shed some light on this?

Arizona, 1920s - Pre-"La Paz county", geography and demographics
I use the term "Pre-"La Paz county"" as I discovered through Wikipedia that the county itself was established in 1983. I'm trying to follow the route of I-10, as it goes from Phoenix through Quartzsite into California. This route is being taken by a motorist in the 1960s, but I want to find out - and I don't know quite how - if it's feasible that there were hamlets, villages or even a few houses in the region during the 1920s. What I'm looking to do here is create a ghost town that existed up to the early 1920s, before a murder drove the residents out of the community.

Due to the relatively young age of the county, trying to find information on demographics prior to 1980s is thus far difficult. If, based on the previous question, there were communities within the county in the 1920s that I can draw information on, would there be a predominant religion that the inhabitants would follow? Or would it be something of a mixed bag? I had hoped to do a service for the two murders that took place, but I would like to have an idea on what religion I need to focus my research on.

Wikipedia - "Quartzsite, Arizona"; "La Paz, Arizona", "La Paz County, Arizona".
Google - Arizona Maps (to try and narrow down communities)

Puritan Bible in 1720 (ish)
My character is a Puritan girl living in New England in the early 1700s.  As a good Puritan, she reads her Bible religiously (humor, har), and I want to quote a few sections that are personally meaningful to her.  So the question is, what Bible would she be reading?  It looks like either the Geneva Bible or the King James Bible, but I'm not sure.  The Geneva Bible seems to have been the primary Bible for Puritans in the 1600s, but its last printing was in the 1640s; would it still be read by 1720?

I've Googled history of the Bible, Puritan Bible, Cotton Mather Bible, Bible 1700, and various combinations of those.  I got really excited when I saw "Biblia Americana" pop up, but that's really not what I'm looking for.  I also looked at the Wikipedia entries on Cotton Mather, Puritans, Geneva Bible, and the KJV, but I might have missed the info.  Googling "King James Bible vs Geneva Bible" gets me a ton of sites wanting to tell me why one is better than the other.  Adding "Puritan" and/or "1700" doesn't help.

So, KJV, Geneva, or flip a coin and run with it?

[ANON POST] 14th-16th-century Northwest Native/First Nations tech and social customs
music, serious face

Puget Sound, 1300s-1500s. Posits that small Japanese and Russian exploration fleets reached the PNW coast during this time and made first contact with the Coast Salish tribes living there. This is a fantasy story, rather than historical-revision fiction, so some artistic license is expected. The story itself is set long after this first contact has been made, and after the three cultures have been coexisting in this region for 100-200 years. This detail--of how these tribes would have lived and interacted under these circumstances--isn't the point of the book. Just a small part of the foundation for the world-building.

The two key questions:

-How would the Salish have handled small groups of foreign visitors who wanted to settle on their lands because they didn't have the means to return to their own home countries across the sea?

This assumes that the Japanese and Russian groups (which came at different times; the Japanese about 100 years before the Russians) were small, and not bent on conquering or otherwise subduing the native peoples, but also wouldn't be comfortable simply assimilating into the existing native cultures. They'd want their own spaces in which to continue their own ways of life and culture, but would generally have friendly trade, etc., relations with the natives. There is a rogue group of the Japanese settlers who become problematic, but they're subdued in other ways. Also, the two foreign cultures eventually clash, but they leave the natives out of it (or, perhaps more accurately (?), the natives decide to stay out of someone else's war.)

-How much of the other cultures' advanced technology and different social and economic customs would these tribes have adopted?

Since they weren't forced into assimilation, as happened with the much larger and more powerful Western European settlers of 200 years later, would they have continued to live basically the same as they did before contact, or would they have voluntarily taken on aspects of the other cultures, such as advanced tools, hunting techniques, shelter building, etc.?

Previous researchCollapse )