Nathan (girfan1040) wrote in little_details,

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a multitude of questions re: the 1920s

setting: Chicago, Illinois circa 1924 or 1925; the character in question was born in London, November of 1907

I have a character I created for a joint Call of Cthulhu/Mansions of Madness campaign; he's a rather precocious young man who was born in London and emigrated to Chicago with his family when he was very young. By precocious, I mean fluent in multiple languages by the age of 19 (which is approximately his age during the game timeframe), attending college beginning around 13 or 14. However, in building his backstory I ran into a few walls while doing research...

1. What would the "accepted" or "official" literary/musical canon be for a young man of such a background? He's well-versed in Nietzschean philosophy (following it almost to a fault), but what sorts of books might he read for pleasure? Again, languages are no barrier; his family is fairly well-off to boot, so acquiring these books likely won't be an issue. Wikipedia only turned up a result for Western canon, unfortunately.

2. A large part of his childhood was spent in a sickbed, watching birds from his window (which led to his eventual study and near-obsession with them later in life). What sorts of illnesses or a series thereof would cause him to be bedridden, but not seriously handicapped later? A friend suggested rickets, but...that comes with a host of subsequent physical issues that would require he not go tramping about in marshes or running after birds. Maybe something that requires minor changes to lifestyle?

3. Were he to take a friend out for lunch or drinks (in the no-alcohol sense of the term), where might a well-off young man living in Kenwood take said friend?
    3a. Along with the where, what might have been offered, depending on the restaurant? This site was fairly helpful in figuring out what sorts of things might be prepared and offered at home, but not so much at dining establishments.
    3b. The second part of the food/drink equation: what sort of drinks might've been offered?
    3c. Is going for coffee on its own, like with an acquaintance or school friend or (cough cough) a lady/gentleman friend even a thing yet?

4. With regard to his bird obsession, what sorts of cameras would be best for wildlife photography in the era and what would the procedure be? I found this page, which really only gives a bare-bones history of photography and nothing really in-depth. (Okay, I won't lie, he's loosely based on both Leopold and Loeb, minus the murdering. Sue me.)

5. Would the family have had servants of any sort? I have it in his backstory that my boy had a tutor for a few years that he was attached to, since the man never really left his side, but how plausible is that?

I know this was a lot, and possibly splitting hairs or worrying unnecessarily about a lot of things, but any help is much appreciated!

search terms: literary canon 1920s, musical canon 1920s, common childhood illnesses 1920s, 1920s chicago restaurants, 1920s restaurant menus, photography 1920s, domestic employees 1920s, nearly every post in this community's 1920-1929 archives
Tags: 1920-1929, uk: education, usa: education (misc), usa: food and drink, usa: history (misc), usa: illinois, ~literature, ~medicine: illnesses (misc), ~medicine: illnesses to order, ~photography, ~restaurants & pubs, ~servants/slaves

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