Fascinating Mid-19th Century Facts
Sam Time readers will learn about Victorian customs in the U.S. The first time-travel chapter begins in northern California during the gold rush. Throughout the novel, women’s and men’s fashions help paint a picture of daily life in the 19th century.
Gold was discovered in northern California in 1848. The term “forty-niners” referred to the people who flocked to California in 1849 searching for fortunes in gold.
Crossing the country, overland, from east to west was a six-month arduous trek. A quicker, but more expensive, route also existed: people and goods traveled from the East Coast by steamship south, around Cape Horn in South America, and then headed north. The shortest route was crossing the Isthmus of Panama, but it was typically jammed with miners and tradesmen.
Hoards of people journeyed to California to mine for gold. By 1855 gold resources were depleted.
Clothing was symbolic in the Victorian era, showing a woman’s status. There were norms, however, that all women followed no matter their station.
When outside, a head covering was a must. A bare head was a means of solicitation by prostitutes.
Every woman wore a corset. Not the tight-fitting style creating a disproportional tiny waist, but a fashionable undergarment providing bust support—like the brassiere—and a desirable hourglass shape.
Pantalets were to worn to cover a woman’s bottom. The leg hems were calf-length and adorned with eyelet lace. In true vintage fashion, each leg top was a separate open panel; that is, there was no center crotch seam. This crotchless design allowed for convenient squatting and elimination over a chamber pot without undressing.
Contrary to popular present-day perception, gloves were not essential. In cold weather, women wore gloves outside for warmth and for protection when working—if they could afford a pair. In rural area women were often too poor to own gloves. In urban areas, affluent women wore daytime gloves for fashion while displaying their elevated station. Evening gloves were ubiquitous for all women attending a ball, theater, or the like.
America’s founding fathers wore white wigs, colorful coats, ruffled laced shirts, beeches, and knee-high hose. This aristocratic look was rejected after the revolution. The democratic look shared by wealthy and middle-class men was a somber dark three-piece suit with a hat.
A man’s vest (“waistcoat” in the 19th century) often displayed character, as a tie does in the present. Vests varied in colors and patterned fabrics.
Historical facts are sprinkled throughout the novel. Reading Sam Time is an easy way to learn Victorian customs.
by Donna Balon
Historical Fiction, Time Travel
When her fiancé is away on business, lonely Samantha Hunter despairs and absorbs herself in historical research. Her nighttime dreams being so vivid, Samantha believes she’s traveling to a past century. As she navigates the Victorian era rules of dos and even more don’ts, she charms Ulysses S Grant while struggling to maintain her present-day romance.
During the night, Samantha had a vivid dream. She was in a rural town wearing her Victorian-style dress. The weather was cool so she wrapped the crocheted afghan around her shoulders. And her sockless feet were cold in her slip-on shoes.
The few men she saw were in worn, soiled work clothes and walked with purpose. The so-called roadways were not paved but dirt paths. No cars or trucks, but horses and carts. A few wooden one-story buildings scattered here and there.
This must be a dream in which the clock has been turned back, Samantha thought. But where am I?
She strolled, aware she had not seen any other women. Pulling the afghan around herself snugly, she walked with her head tilted down to avoid catching the eye of any man in whatever this place was, glancing up often to learn more of her surroundings.
Then two women hurried toward her, each carrying a wooden bucket of water. Their cotton dresses hung to their ankles, with full skirts gathered at the waist of fitted bodices. Plain white cotton bonnets covered their heads, and shawls were wrapped around their shoulders. They looked at Samantha disapprovingly. Her dress was too fancy for this rural town. Moreover, she wasn’t wearing a bonnet or hat; a bare head was a means of solicitation by prostitutes. She hugged her body with the afghan, which served as a shawl to hide her uncorseted torso.
The dream seemed authentic. Despite her uneasiness, she thought, Enjoy the dream. If I don’t like it, I’ll wake myself up.
Around a corner, she spotted a few men in uniform. Soldiers. Maybe the army. This might be a small town next to an army fort, Samantha guessed. Still, not a good place for a woman.
Author Donna Balon debuts Sam Time, a novel well-researched and professionally edited by quality talent from the publishing industry. Donna resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her husband.
One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $25 Amazon/BN.com gift card.