Boston in the late 1880s

When I read – and write – books, I love historical trivia. For me, it makes the story richer.

So, since my first “Love at Sea” book, The Earl’s Engagement, starts in Boston, Massachusetts, I wanted to make sure my city details were accurate. (Growing up in the Boston area, I was familiar with the modern streets of Boston… but not so sure what they were like, or even named, in earlier times.)

The first surprise was how little downtown Boston has changed in over a century. Here’s a map from 1885.

Boston Massachusetts 1885

So, when my hero and heroine were in Boston, most of the street names were the same as they are now. That made it easier for me to understand what kinds of businesses were in Boston… and where.

In my research, I learned that Filene’s department store opened in 1881 at 10 Winter Street in Boston.

And, by 1883, a sort-of circus (described as “sideshow freaks”) opened at 585 Washington Street. It was called Keith & Batchelder’s Dime Museum.

On the second floor, over their museum, the men created a vaudeville theatre. It opened daily at 10 AM and usually presented eight shows per day.

That theatre was run by Edward F. Albee II, whose grandson was noted playwright Edward Albee, famous for plays such as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Sandbox.

Then, when I researched pawnbrokers, I learned that the word was in use in that era, but some pawn shops were part of “collateral loan” institutions. (See the ad in the upper right corner of the following illustration.)

Collateral loans pawnshops

All of this makes writing historical fiction fascinating, and I hope my readers enjoy this kind of┬átrivia – and accuracy – as much as I do.

One thought on “Boston in the late 1880s”

  1. In 1921, Whittier College named a new women’s literary society after her. The College had as its mission to create a female literary society, with the hope of bringing such groups back to Whittier College after they faded from existence at the beginning of World War I. Fullerton Junior College transfer Jessamynn West and friends reportedly researched and lobbied extensively to name the group for Alice Freeman Palmer, due to her reputation as a staunch advocate of higher education for women during the late h century. In the early years, the Palmer Society was an intercollegiate society that read and performed plays with the school’s cross-town rival, Occidental College. Today, the Palmer Society’s goal is still to “attain to the highest ideals of American womanhood.”

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