Monday, July 29, 2013

Researching for Historicals: Part Three by Pamela S. Meyers

Pamela S. Meyers
Hey everyone, Annette here. Pamela S. Meyers is back today to share her final installment on using newspapers to research for historicals. Wouldn't it be interesting to research menu items and current movies from a given time period? Read on!

Using Local Newspapers to 
Make Your Historical Setting Come Alive, Part 3 
By Pamela S. Meyers

In my final installment about using local newspapers to make your historical setting come alive, I want to discuss paying attention to the details.

To make my story as authentic to exact months and year in which it is set, I studied the weather reports, the events taking place in the world outside of Lake Geneva, and what movies were playing at the time of my story.

My heroine, Meg, and her best friend, Helen, love going to movies and they see at least one movie a week when they can afford it. I didn’t just have them see a movie that released in early 1933, from the microfilm, I made note of the movies playing at the Geneva Theater at the exact time they would be going to the “picture show” (as they called it) in my story. I even located the movies to rent so I could see exactly what they were watching. What was really fun was with one film, the movie heroine was struggling with a situation similar to Meg’s struggle, and I was able to incorporate that into the storyline.

Through research, I learned that back in 1933 the inauguration of the President of the United States took place in March, not January like it does now. I made sure to mention the newsreel was talking about the inauguration during another time they were at the movies.

Oddly, most restaurants didn’t advertise in the paper at that time. Perhaps that was because everyone knew where the restaurants were and what their specialties were, so the restaurants didn’t need a large advertising budget. I only found one small ad for an eatery called the Utopia CafĂ©. My characters ate there a couple of times. I also had them eat at another restaurant I found pictured a book. As for what kind of food they ordered, I searched for restaurant menus in 1933 and found one from an establishment in Milwaukee. From there, I could incorporate the offerings into my restaurant scenes.

I hope I’ve been able to spark some ideas for your story research. When I began this series of articles, I said I resisted writing historicals because of all the extra research involved. What I learned is that I really love research and making my stories authentic to the time. In fact, right now I’m working on a new historical set even earlier than the 1930s—in the nineteenth century.

Now if I can just remember that they ride in carriages instead of cars.


Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago. She served on the ACFW Operating Board for five years and has also served her local ACFW chapter in leadership roles. Her historical romance, which is set in her hometown, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, released in April 2013. You can find more information on Pam at or on Facebook at

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