Gilded Age Bibliography

1890 to 1920

copyright 1997 by Historical Novelists Center

One of the biggest problems with this period is that all the photography is black and white, so that after several hundred photos you start to get the subconscious image that the world was grey, and everything drab. Be sure and look at fashion journals with coloured plates and the painters of the period to see how colourful everything still was.

Be sure and catch the Atlas of Civilisation series, in this case the WWI and before chapters of *The Cultural Atlas of France*, *The Cultural Atlas of Russia*, etc.

Search for Books at
Search by:

"One of the Aristocracy"

A Book of Edwardian Etiquette *****!
1902, available in reprint
In high society, or even polite society, there was an endless stream of trivial behaviors designed to reveal interloping peasants: what you wear on various occasions, how you speak, how you handle your visiting cards ("Visiting" was very big as the main occupation of well-to-do women). If you want to write novels of the society of the period, you must devour all available etiquette books. T1

Abelson, Elaine S.

When Ladies Go A-Thieving: Middle-Class Shoplifters in the Victorian Department Store *****!
Oxford University Press, 1989; 292 pg, index, sources in Notes
While ostensibly an investigation into the invention of the kleptomaniac, it is most valuable for its detailed presentation of life before department stores, what the early ones were like, how they developed, and how they became part of middle-class women's lives. Not dry, despite the scholarly research. T3

Allinson, Sidney

The Bantams: The Untold Story of World War I ****
Howard Baker Press, London, or Mosaic Press, Oakville, Ontario, 1997
While valuable to any Great War recreation for its vivid first-person re-experience of trench warfare, its specific topic is the formation of "bantam" units, made of men below the British Army's minimum height of 5'3"; officially 5' to 5'3", but some much shorter talked their way in. As some of us might expect, they performed with exceptional gallantry. There may be a bantam unit attached to your hero's regiment. Good reading in any case. T2

Appelbaum, Stanley, editor

The Chicago World's Fair of 1893: A Photographic Record ****
Dover Publications, Inc. NY; 116 pg, text
128 photos of the Beaux Arts buildings and such novelties as the Ferris Wheel. T3

Arnold, James

All Drawn By Horses *****!
Newton Abbott, Long & NY; David & Charles, 1979
Good text with line drawings by the author, and an invaluable 2-page glossary of coach terms. Freight wagons as well as phaetons; in fact, heavier on the wagons, which do all the duty of trucks, while on the streets of old only the richest had the carriages equivalent to cars. T2

Ball, Edward

Slaves in the Family ***
Ball tracked down the descendents of his ancestors' slaves, and gives a chronicle of the lives they led. An insight into African-American life through ten generations. T2

Blum, Stella, editor

Paris Fashions of the 1890's: A Picture Sourcebook with 350 Designs, including 24 in Full Color *****!
Dover, NY; 88 pg
Young women's and children's fashions in England, with a French bent, from The Young Ladies' Journal. T1

Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper's Bazar, 1867-1898 *****!
Dover Publications, Inc., NY; 320 pg, 1000+ illos
Stellar costume book, detailing materials and colours as well as styles, but most valuable for its illustrations of how women did their hair in the period. T1

Boucher, Francois

Twenty Thousand Years of Fashion; the History of Costume and Personal Adornment ***
Harry N. Abrams, 1966; 440 pg, index, glossary
Strong in this period, well illustrated, with photos of surviving garments when possible. T1

Bray, Peter, editor

Transport Through the Ages **
Taplinger Publishing Co., Inc., NY, 1971; illos by Barbara Brown
Covers a bit of everything, from dugout canoes on. Emphasis on later periods. T2

Brett, Gerard

Dinner is Served ***
Archon Books, Hamden, CN, 1968
British meals of the day and their conduct; Part Two covers 1660 to 1900. Do remember how much Eastern Society follows Britain. T3

Brockett, Oscar G.

History of the Theatre ***
Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1977
Good university-level text on staging conventions, acting forms, audience behavior, etc. T3

Burton, Jean

Lydia Pinkham is Her Name ****
Farrar, Straus, & Co., NY, 1949; 279 pg, no index, no bibliography
The story of Mrs. Pinkham and her Vegetable Compound, the vicissitudes of the company's control by her descendents, changes in advertising, and the post-War vindication of it containing estrogenic compounds. T3

Byron, Joseph

New York Life at the Turn of the Century in Photographs ****
Dover Publications, Inc., NY; intro and notes by Albert K. Baragwanath
120 shots from the Byron Collection, always a good source. T2

Photographs of New York Interiors at the Turn of the Century *****!
Dover Publications, Inc., NY; 176 pg
131 more photos, of bars, hotels, and lushly Edwardian homes, 1893-1915. T2

Cassimatis, L. P.

American Influence in Greece 1917-1929 ****
Covers the social as well as political ramifications of the American influence in Greece. T2

Farnsworth, Marjorie

The Ziegfield Follies ****
Bonanza Books, NY, 1956
A fascinating exploration of the one-man theatrical phenomenon, who created a lavish theatre tradition still surviving in the Folies Bergere and Las Vegas. A biography that delves deeply into the productions and the players. A list of the Follies from 1907 to '31 with theatre used, opening night, and featured players. Lavish with pictures, the beauties of their days. T2

Fitzsimmons, Bernard, editor

Warships and Sea Battles of World War I ***
Beekman House, NY, 1973
This book has a lot of text, beautiful technical paintings, some period photographs, and art illos. Slim and colourful. ***

Floyd, Wells & Co.

Authentic Victorian Stoves, Heaters, Ranges, etc.: An Unabridged Reprint of the Illustrated Floyd, Wells & Co. Catalog, ca. 1898 ****
1893; now from Dover; 192 pg
Heating and cooking equipment. T3

French Fashion Plates in Full Color from the Gazette du Bon Ton (1912-1925) ****

Dover Publications, NY, 1979
Little text, but 58 illustrations. A nice evolution of the Tango Age to the Hot Jazz Age. T3

Gandy, Joan W. and Thomas H., editors

The Mississippi Steamboat Era in Historic Photographs: Natchez to New Orleans, 1870-1920 ***
Dover Publications, Inc., NY, 1987; 128 pg, 170 photos
Mostly exterior shots, the interior ones of the J.M. White, one of the palace ships, is revelatory. Wonderful images, but you will need more information than the captions provide. T3

Gernsheim, Alison

Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey, 1840-1914 *****!
Dover Publications; 240 pg, 235 photos (most two to the page, sideways)
The text is wonderfully researched, with period comments on fashion, cosmetics, emigrant kits, dyes and colour combinations -- priceless! Must read, even though very European. T2

Goodrum, Charles, and Helen Dalrymple

Advertising in America; the First 200 Years ****
Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, NY, 1990; 288 pg, oversize, index, bibliography, heavily illustrated
The reproduced ads are illuminative of the difference in speech and attitudes between then and now. Also good for fashion for everyday people (rather than society frontrunners - ads tend to target the middle class), idealised beauty, and just what brands were available. T3

Hale, William Harlan, and the editors of Horizon Magazine

The Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking Through the Ages ****
American Heritage Publishing, Inc., 1968
Part One has the description of customs and habits, foods available, and some interesting art. Part Two has the tastiest recipes, done for the modern kitchen. Especially hits this period in Part One. T1

Hogg, Ian V.

The History of Fortification ***
St. Martin's Press, NY, 1981
Clear, interesting and accurate overview from 7000 BC through the 1970's, well illustrated with photos and diagrams; bibliography and glossary. T3

Inglis, Brian

Trance: A Natural History of Altered States of Mind ****
Paladin/Grafton Books, London, 1990
A history of animal magnetism, mesmerism, hypnotism, and related phenomena, especially the parts that do not fit materialist scientism. Details the researchers and their studies through this century. T3

Ingraham, Holly

People's Names: A Cross-cultural Reference Guide to the Proper Use of Over 40,000 Personal and Familial Names in Over 100 Cultures *****!
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, NC; 1997; 613 pgs, index, select annotated bibliography
The Contemporary half will provide your world-wide naming needs, both individual and family names. There is a special chapter on Victorian-American individual names. T1

Israel, Fred L., ed.

1897 Sears, Roebuck Catalogue *****!
Chelsea House
These old catalogs are so comprehensive, selling everything from medicine and penny candy to farm equipment and sporting goods, that they should always be in your reference. You can learn a great deal about the common person's attitudes and period language just by reading the descriptions. T3

Kohler, Carl

A History of Costume ****
Dover Publications, Inc., NY
Hand-sized, info-packed, based on surviving clothes first and artwork secondarily. Author's line drawings of construction and detail. Neophytes should use with a picture book, which it will greatly clarify. T2

Lightfoot, Frederick

Nineteenth Century New York in Rare Photographic Views ****
Dover Publications, Inc., NY; 151 pg
A Victorian collection of photos originally for stereographs. T3

MacColl, Gail, and Carol McD. Wallace

To Marry an English Lord ****
Sidgewick and Jackson, Ltd., London, 1989
Whether the hunting of titles by rich young Yankee women (and some Western heirresses), or the hunting of heiresses by bankrupt (largely British) noblemen, the cross-Atlantic traffic forever changed both Society and possibly world affairs. These are the details from Mrs. Astor's Four Hundred to the weddings, the parties, life in England, and how to remarry or at least play around. Covers 1860 to about 1910. T2

Machray, Robert

The Night Side of London *****!
1902; now from Paul Harris Publishing, Edinburgh; 300 pg, no index; illustrated by Tome Browne
Author and artist went out on the pavements, to the stations, to the grand balls and the Shilling Hops, and report back to you. Not scientific, written to be amusing with too many now incomprehensible catch-phrases and then well-known tags. Fascinating for the internalized class-status. T3

Matthews, Frederick C.

American Merchant Ships, 1850-1900 ****
Dover; 960 pg in 2 vol, 195 B&W illos
The builders, tonnage, voyages, cargoes, and stories aboard of 322 vessels. Surely one is the ship you're looking for! T3

Miller, William H., Jr.

The First Great Ocean Liners in Photographs: 193 views, 1897-1927 ***
Dover; 149 pg, 190+ photos
Mostly exteriors (gad, another black thing with chimneys!), but the interiors are informative, especially the few not in first class. T3

Mills, Betty J.

Calico Chronicle: Texas Women and Their Fasions, 1830-1910 *****!
Texas Tech Press; 1985; 191 pg, 104 photos
Frontier, pioneer, and other plain, common, unfashionable folk, with whom the country is filled. What they wore and even how they took care of it. T2

Mott Iron Works, The J. L.

Mott's Illustrated Catalog of Victorian Plumbing Fixtures for Bathrooms and Kitchens ****
1888; now from Dover; 288 pg, 800 engravings.
How advanced they are, and how primitive! These home appliances often put your characters more firmly in a ratio of technology to yourself than any number of vehicles. T3

Nock, O .S., editor

Encyclopedia of Railroads ****
Galahad Books, NY, 1977; 480 pg, index
History of railroads and equipment over the entire world, including Africa, Asia, and south America. Sections on equipment and operation, also the great luxury trains, past and present. Gorgeous colour layout, oversize. One lap-breaker worth the effort of lifting. T2

National Geographic, the editors of

The Complete National Geographic; 103 Years of National Geographic Magazine on CD-ROM ****
National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, 1991
The first seven discs, 1888-1919, will give you an idea of what constituted an adventure in these days. T1

Oppel, Frank, editor

Early Flight: From Balloons to Biplanes *****!
Castle, a division of Book Sales, Inc., Seacaucus, NJ, 1987
Great compilation of period aeronautical articles, from 1869 to 1912, though mostly from 1908 on. We sometimes forget how many questions people had about flight, and what strange byways it took. Eight articles on ballooning, seven on airships, the rest on planes. T2

Oppenheim, Janet

"Shattered Nerves": Doctors, Patients, and Depression in Victorian England ***
Oxford University Press, 1991; 389 pg, index, bibliography hidden in the Notes
Interesting history of the development of psychiatry in England, with occasional flashes of influential development in France and America. Some case histories, more histories of the doctors, good definitions in text, but retains that dry, scholarly air even at its best. Vital if you are going to have anyone go off their head or consult a mad-doctor. T3

Parisian Costume Plates in Full Color (1912-1914) ****

Dover Publications, NY, 1982
From a short-lived revival of the Journal des Dames et des Modes, 60 fashion plates including a gentleman's street dress and dressing robe, and a bathing suit that is NOT navy serge that showing lots of leg and arm. T2

Piper, Leonard

Murder by Gaslight ****
Michael O'Mara Books, London; Gallery Books, W.H. Smith Publishers, Inc., NY, 1991; 219 pg, no index, no bibliography
True crime. Ten English murder cases, often multiple murder, from the 1890's through 1910 or so. These may be in the news, then again, they may just give you an insight into the mind of period criminals, who did not have to worry about fingerprints, blood-typing, and the rest, and period detectives, who had to find other ways to nail murderers. T2

Ranhofer, Charles

The Epicurean ****
1902; now from Dover; 1183 pg, 775 illos
3500 recipes from the master chef of Delmonico's. How the upper half eats. T3

Riis, Jacob A.

How the Other Half Lives *****!
1900; now from Dover; 233 pg, 100 photos
Life in the slums, a shocking expose of the time, that slapped the middle class in the face with the truth about how the poorer half of New York (or any city) was forced to live. T2

Salmonson, Jessica Amanda

The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era *****!
Paragon House, NY, 1991; 290 pg, no index, bibliography
The institution of the real physical exam for the military kept most women out of the military in combat roles, but it should be noted that one of the top French aces of WW1 was Lt. Helene Dutreaux, who is usually hidden from impressionable females by the lists being given only as rank, first initial and family name. In any place where total war sweeps, some women become combatants because non-combatants are only easy victims, not safe. There are still lots of entries. T2

Scheffel, Richard L., project editor

Discovering America's Past **
Reader's Digest Books, Pleasantville, NY; 1993; 400 pg, index, no bibliography
An omnium gatherum of inventions, customs, practices and lifestyles, divided into 11 chapters by topic, such as "Educating America" which follows educational development as a series of short articles (half to full page) on unusual (to us) practices or noteworthy developments. Heavily illustrated, flashes of information, one of which may suit you. Best for the pages in the back listing Living History sites you can visit. T2

Sedgwick, Michael

Antique Cars *****!
Exeter Books, NY, 1981; illus. by Mike Atkinson; 93 pg, index, technical information table.
Shows the 81 early autos -- 1860 to 1918, gas or steam, all sorts of configurations and drives -- in the usual photos, but also in colour paintings that remind you how cheerfully bright, like coaches, these cars often were. Even an otherwise all black one will have red spokes on the wheels, or brightly coloured leather seats. T1

Stephens, Autumn

Wild Women: Crusaders, Curmudgeons and Completely Corsetless Ladies in the Otherwise Virtuous Victorian Era ****
Conari Press, Berkley, CA, 1992; 249 pg, no index, bibliography
150 mini-biographies (none over two pages) of unconventional women. Good to whet the appetite for further research in the bibliography. Note the social hell these women caught, too, for their actions. T2

van der Vat, Dan

Gentlemen of War: The Amazing Story of Captain Karl von Mueller and the SMS Emden ****
William Morrow, NY, 1983; 205 pg, index, notes on sources
The story of chivalrous raiding in WWI, though Capt. Mueller's mildness led to his ship's destruction at the hands of the (as usual for this war) treacherous, double-dealing British. T3

Viskochil, Larry A.

Chicago at the Turn of the Century in Photographs: 122 Historic Views from the Collections of the Chicago Historical Society ****
Dover Publications, Inc., NY, 1984; 144 pg, map
1904-1913, showing horse-drawn vehicles and cars mixed together, busy downtown streets, shady residentials. Valuable as a general image of any big city of the time: fire house and library interiors, open street markets, stockyards, locomotives, draw bridges, excursion steamers, et al. T3

Waugh, Norah

Corsets and Crinolines *****!
Theatre Arts Books, 1954
Underpinnings, 1600's to 1925, in period art. T3

The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900 *****!
Theatre Arts Books, 1964
The most fashionable men's dress, in period illustrations, with tailor's patterns, period comments on colours and fabrics, etc. Superb. T3

The Cut of Women's Clothes, 1600 to 1930 *****!
Theatre Arts Books, 1968
The same for women. Both books show fastenings! T3


The earliest silent films either are made in this period, or step back a short way to The Great War. NEVER call it WW1 until WW2 is happening. In fact, the 1959 Encyclopedia Americana still refers to it as "The European War" Being within short memory, the visuals are usually accurate. Very, very little has emerged in non-fiction video on this period.


Average American youth goes to war in Europe, including Clara Bow as an ambulance driver. Bathetic at points, but certainly of its time. Fantastic air stunts and battle scenes. T3

The Wedding March ***

A little overwrought on the melodrama (as was any form of fiction back here), showing the evil aristocracy of Austria back before the Great War. By Eric von Stroheim T3

Search for Books at
Search by:


H-GIG Historical Times & Places ***

A thorough-going linksite maintained by the University of California at Riverside, H-GIG sorts by area, by era (ancient, Medieval, early Modern, Modern<yours>, and 20th C<also yours>), or by topic (military, women, etc.). It's a good place to start a hunt for books and essays online.

Internet Modern History Sourcebook ****

Halsall, whom we know from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook, is responding to demand in the world by now compiling an onl-line library on modern subjects. As it grows, you never know what has been lately added.

Project Gutenberg ****

Since 1971 putting classic books into electronic form. We just read a translated German novel from 1904 postulating a very different Great War, thanks to these guys.

World War I: Trenches on the Web ****\I31675300\World%20War%20I%20-%20Trenches%20on%20the%20Web

This site runs Java, and once you are in it, the only way out is the tiny Back button near the top of the page that will get you to eventually. It has a reference library, a book find service, many articles (including the Willy-Nicky telegrams between Kaiser Wilhelm and Czar Nicholas, and the home page of The Great War Society. The last has a links page of 350+ WW1 sites.


To Monograph on Corsets

Back to Times and Places