Tuesday, May 11, 2021


 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

As a writer sets the stage for the next story, we try to make it real. If you set it in the past, there is a resource many may not think about. Yes, we study traveling in wagons or stagecoaches. We look at what our characters might have worn. Yet, where did they get these items?. When did the stages run, and what were their routes. There is a place where all these things may be found and it's the advertisements in the newspapers.

Photo property of the author

I use 'Newspaper Archive' for a lot of my research. They offer so many options. I also set many of my stories in Colorado, so I use 'Colorado's Historic Newspapers'.

I'll give you a couple of examples:

From the May, 11th 1871 issue of the Rocky Mountain News (daily):

For Sale — A two-story brick house, furnished throughout — 80 x 150 feet of land, fine location. Price $3,500, best bargain in the city. John Clough & Co., Real estate and loan agents

From that same issue the following 'news' item was found:

A middle-aged lady from the country, who had never set for a picture, was in a photograph gallery yesterday for that purpose. Having adjusted her properly in the chair, the operator went to take a look at her through the camera, and was surprised to find she had tucked the bottom of her dress under her feet and under the legs of the chair all around. "Why, Madam., why fix your dress so for?" he asked; "you'll not look half so well that way." "Ah, I know what I am doing; my daughter looked through that thing when she was here to get her picture last week, and she says as soon as you look at that little glass the person you look at turns upside down."

Did you realize that auctions were a thing in 1871? Here is a copy of an advertisement that appears in the paper: 

Rocky Mountain News
May 11, 1871

So the next time you want to add some color, or tidbits for realism take a look at the newspaper; the ads, the personals, and those short pieces of filler. What a treasure trove there is. 

For the reader, you might want to check out a few issues of those historic papers. You might be surprised at what you find.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Author of "The Agate Gulch" Novellas and "Kiowa Wells" novels.
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Post (c) 2021 by Doris McCraw  All Rights Reserved


Julie Lence said...

Great tip, Doris! Thank you for sharing.

Renaissance Women said...

You are welcome. I've a writer friend who always goes for the advertisements first. Once I thought about it, it made sense. Doris

Caroline Clemmons said...

I love reading old newspapers. One of the things that fascinates me is the language and the headlines. I always love your posts because you have such a good grasp of history.

Renaissance Women said...

Caroline, thank you for the kind words. Newspapers from back in time are treasures waiting to be found. Doris

Elizabeth Clements said...

I constantly clip things from newspapers that is history-related and have quite a lot of articles...now to organize them lol. As usual, you give excellent advice/suggestions, Doris.

Renaissance Women said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. I try to share what I've learned and hopefully will work for others. Doris