Road Trip Wednesday: Blast from the 19th Century Past
Thanks to that gals at YA Highway for this blog prompt.
If you could travel back to any historical era for research purposes, which would you choose?
Definitely late 19th century United States — specifically, 1876 Philadelphia. Boy oh boy do I wanna see the International Centennial Exhibition that’s the back drop for Eleanor’s story.
The International Centennial Exhibition was the first World’s Fair hosted in the United States, and we used the event to also host a giant “party” celebrating our country’s 100th birthday. It was an enormous “city” built to house the various nations and their feats of man.
The place was like Disney World — and (don’t laugh) Disney World is my favorite place in the whole wide world. There was even a little train you could ride that would take you around the Exhibition Grounds. There was music playing everywhere; new inventions to see (like the telephone and ketchup!); popcorn to be eaten and exotic treats to try; and thousands upon thousands of visitors to mingle with everyday.
The fair lasted six months, and in that time, 10,000,000 people came from around the world to see it. Ten thousand people visited on the opening day alone!
The most popular building to visit was Machinery Hall, where the world displayed their newest inventions. This building is also where most of Eleanor’s story takes place, so it holds a special place in my heart (and Eleanor’s).
Here’s how she describes the fair:
I joined the throngs that poured through the Exhibition turnstiles, paid my fifty cents, and strode into the enormous Grand Plaza. It was like a field of flowers with parasols everywhere, twirling and bobbing in the breeze. A bronze fountain rose from the plaza’s center and towered over the thousands of visitors. It was Bartholdi’s fountain of Light and Water, and I paused before it to let the mist spray over me.
I had already visited the Exhibition. I had gasped and twittered with all the other visitors, but even the greatest feats of man lose their luster when one’s head is filled with storm clouds.
I lowered my parasol and swiveled left. Before me was most popular building at the Exhibition: Machinery Hall. It was a long, narrow building made entirely of wood and glass, and I had to crane my neck to see the top.
I marched in through the building’s eastern entrance. Sun poured in from windows that spanned the walls, and sharp beams of light flew from the metal surfaces that packed the building. The metal of machines.
Engines, furnaces, sewing machines, locomotives – every example of man’s newest creations hummed with life in this building. The hall resounded with the whirs and clicks of a mechanical symphony. Singing with it was the chorus of people’s laughter and chatter, and above it all was the percussive boom of a massive steam engine.
It was the Corliss Engine. It sat in the center of Machinery Hall and soared forty feet up into the rafters. Two monstrous cylinders spun a thirty foot wheel, and the energy it gave was enough to power every machine in the building.
On the fair’s opening day, I’d watched President Grant and Emperor Dom Pedro pull levers to start the machine. The Corliss Engine was the Centennial Exhibition’s crowning triumph.
So there you have it. Much of The Spirit-Hunters is set at the Centennial Exhibition, and in Machinery Hall specifically. I think it would be amazing to see the newest versions of technology we now take for granted.
However, I think I’ll have to forgo the corset. I’m not sure I can handle the Philadelphia heat in a wool gown, two petticoats, a corset, and a flowery bonnet…
What about you all? What historical era do you wish you could experience?
P.S. I just added a follower thing-a-majig on the sidebar! It took me way too long to figure out, I know. PLEASE add your name to the followers — contests are on the horizon and Already Established Followers will win more swag…
September 15, 2010 @ 12:12 pm
I’m so glad you decided to do a RTW! They’re fun. When I read the topic I immediately knew where you’d want to go lol And I am now, officially, a stalk- uh – I mean follower. 😉
September 15, 2010 @ 2:00 pm
It is fun. I usually write my posts over the weekend, though, so I can’t participate, but this weekend I wasn’t on the ball… Et voilà! Je suis ici.
Thanks for the follow. I know you’re stalking me, and it doesn’t concern me. You’re allowed to ’cause you’re cool. 😉 (Unless you turn into a creepy Twilight-Edward-stalker. Then it’s not okay.)
September 15, 2010 @ 1:56 pm
That sounds very cool! I love your website too, btw. It’s gorgeous! I’ll gladly be a follower. 😉
September 15, 2010 @ 1:58 pm
Why thank you, Meredith! I spent a long time making this website, but I’m pleased with the results too. 🙂
And thanks for the follow!
September 15, 2010 @ 2:01 pm
Wow- what an in depth and interesting blog post! I think that you made this time period seem very intriguing- I may have to add it to my list of eras to visit 🙂 And LOL to the corset comment- I concur 🙂
September 15, 2010 @ 4:13 pm
That sounds so cool!!!
September 15, 2010 @ 5:37 pm
Awesome time period! So much energy and excitement in the world at that time. And thanks for sharing the paragraphs from your work. They’re great!
September 15, 2010 @ 6:20 pm
Ketchup! It’s funny to think ketchup once wasn’t.
Don’t worry, I love Disney, too! Great choice!
September 15, 2010 @ 8:39 pm
Glad you joined RTW! I love all the illustrations.
September 15, 2010 @ 8:49 pm
You can see an awesome (c. 1889)scale model of the Centennial Exhibition fairgrounds and learn more about the Exhibition at Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia (minus the undead!). I’m interested in reading Eleanor’s story and how you wove the history of the expo into it. Philadelphia in 1876 would have been an incredible place to be…
September 16, 2010 @ 1:14 am
I found your website from RTW- and I have to say HOLY MOLY WOMAN! THIS IS AWESOME! I love your answer, love your website, love the premise of your WIP. There is just a bunch of writerly love flowing here. I get so excited to see what other people are working on. I am in the midst of an urban fantasy-but have been smitten with steam punk for a little while now. Good luck on your edits and getting an agent/published. I definitely want to read more about Eleanor!!
September 17, 2010 @ 9:38 am
Thanks, Amanda! I feel overwhelmed by warm fuzziness now. I’ll be sure to check out your blog. Happy writing!
September 16, 2010 @ 1:29 am
Wow, I’ve never even considered the specifics of city histories. Philadelphia is a great choice – what a rich variety of places to visit! 1876 was a good time for technology and industry, so at least you wouldn’t be cold, or have to walk – transport was everything! 😀 Great choice! PS. I’m now a follower. Your blog rocks!
September 17, 2010 @ 9:37 am
Thanks, Caitlin!! I appreciate your comment. Always brightens my day to hear such things. 😉
September 16, 2010 @ 1:33 am
You and I chose similar time periods! And MAN, would I ever jump at the chance to go to a World’s Fair. So, so amazing.