In the event that it might be useful to another writer or curious person, the site Measuring Worth is a great resource for helping understand the historical value of commodities–such as slaves–and more. There’s an interesting article about the economics of historical slavery here at the site. It was, of course, curiosity about the costs of slaves in modern dollars that led me to Measuring Worth in the first place.
While I say in the GQ books that Martin cost more than any other slave sold that day, and that his sale set a record, I didn’t offer a number. I did go through a process of determining what I felt would be a reasonable (for lack of a better term) amount for a slave with Martin’s attributes and training, but then I thought better of putting a price on a person, even a fictional person. Still, I found the Measuring Worth site really helpful to provide context for the 1900 dollar amounts for all manner of goods and services that I ran across in my research.
The site has data for the US going back to Revolutionary times, for the UK going back to the 13th century, and for Australia from 1828 to the present. They also have limited data on China and Japan.
I love a good master/slave story and I found this one particularly interesting as it is set outside the typical fantasy world setting. We are in New York in a world we recognize, just a modified version. So I found the set up fascinating here and it makes for a really engaging story.
So overall I was just thrilled with this story and love the world Glass has created. I adored Henry and Martin together. They are sweet and adorable and also manage to be super sexy together. I loved the 1900s setting and the alternate world Glass has created. I am already dying to start the second book and see what comes next for these two. So A Most Personal Property is really excellent and highly recommended.
And about A Superior Slave (GQ 0.5)she says:
I found this one so good and just fascinating and it is wonderful set up to the larger series…It is a long, almost novel length story and a great introduction to the world Glass has created here. I adore Martin and just loved seeing this look into his world.
The book is so fun. I love the historical setting, and the deepening of the relationship between Henry and Martin. It is for Martin that Henry breaks through his shell, and endeavors to be a better student and brother.
There are two types of horses in the GQ books: working horses that pull the Blackwells’ carriages, and recreational horses, most of which see little use. The horses that get the most exercise are Henry’s Marigold and Martin’s Partita.
The Blackwells keep their horses in a stable several blocks from their home, which was the custom at the time–there were whole neighborhoods of stables smelling of horseshit, which rich people understandably wanted at some distance from their grand residences. Henry and Martin walk the few blocks to the stables whenever they want to ride.
Just to give you an idea of how RL rich people housed their horses, this is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s stable, built in 1880. This photo was apparently taken in 1916, after the family had converted the stable to a nightclub (!!!), the era of horse-drawn anything being well past for the likes of the Vanderbilts.
I don’t see Mr. Blackwell wanting anything quite so decorated, actually, but I do imagine the Blackwell stables being fairly grand nonetheless.
Throughout the GQ books, Henry and Martin make frequent trips downtown to the arcade in Union Square to look at “peep shows” and play games. The arcade in the books is based on the Automatic Vaudeville penny arcade on Union Square which probablyopened in 1903.
I usually like to write stories from a single point of view. It’s obviously a limited perspective, but I enjoy the constraints. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as a reliable narrator. Characters misinterpret things, miss things, draw the wrong conclusions, and it can be tricky and fun to work the “truth” into a story alongside the character’s perceptions. For instance, I think it’s obvious to the reader that Martin is DTF from the get-go, but Henry, equipped with the same amount of information, simply doesn’t get it.
When I started writing the Ganymede Quartet books, it seemed obvious to me that the story needed to be told from the master’s point of view. Whether or not he’s actually prepared to take responsibility, the fact remains that Henry’s the one in charge and he sets the tone. It’s Martin’s job to adapt and respond and accommodate and serve. Obviously, Martin is better-equipped to steer this particular ship, but, unfortunately for Henry, the roles in this relationship weren’t assigned based on fitness or merit. If you’ve read A Most Personal Property (GQ Book 1), you know that when the opportunity finally arises for Martin to take charge, he does so with great effect, but he does wait for Henry to create the opportunity. He’s very well-trained.
I think it’s apparent that Martin is miserable for most of AMPP, and writing weeks of self-doubt and misery even greater than Henry’s, from the perspective of a character who has even less power to effect change…I don’t think anyone wants to read that book, actually.
If you are reading the GQ series, you will no doubt have noticed that there are a lot of mentions of food Henry is eating. He eats huge breakfasts, is presented with lavish smorgasbords at lunch, is served haute Victorian cuisine for dinner, and sneaks downstairs at night for extra cake. He eats large quantities of a great many things, and Martin is just as voracious. I grew up with a skinny brother who did nothing but eat, so it seems entirely realistic to me that teenagers would put away such epic quantities of food without noticeable effect.
FOOD TIMELINE: If you’re a writer, or if you’re just interested in food history, you need to know about the Food Timeline. It was extremely helpful to me whenever I was smart enough to use it. You can find out when people started eating different foods, how they prepared them, and when they became commercially available, among other things. Continue reading Food and restaurants in 1900→
Before there was such a thing as Times Square–which came about in 1904–the people of New York did their New Year’s Eve celebrating at Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan. There was a religious service, but there were also crowds, fireworks, tin horns, and mayhem.
As you may recall, there was some discussion as to whether our new century began on January 1, 2000 versus January 1, 2001, and a hundred years ago there was similar debate. In modern times, most people chose to celebrate the beginning of the year 2000, but our Gilded Age counterparts put off their festivities until December 31, 1900, heralding the dawning of a new century on January 1, 1901.
Here’s the New York Tribune’s New Year reporting for January 1, 1901:
The welcome which New-Yorkers gave to the Twentieth Century last night was essentially similar to that which it extends to each New Year, only it was one hundred times more enthusiastic. Choirs have often sung on New Year’s Eve before, but last night the choir which led the singing on City Hall steps was 1000 strong. Crowds assemble annually in Broadway to hear Trinity Church chimes “ring in the new, ring out the old.” but last night the crowds were phenomenal in size, and they gathered around churches with chimes in many parts of the city, from the Battery to the Bronx, not omitting Brooklyn, Queens and Richmond.
Fireworks there were also, and fine electrical displays from several buildings, notably from the City Hall. Flags and bunting decorated the same public structure in profusion, and were repeated in lesser degree on hotels, office buildings, theatres and private houses by the thousand all over the city. Even the liquor shops were festooned with evergreen streamers without and within. Small boys, and many of larger growth, chose the tin horn as the most appropriate method of voicing the feelings within them, which had been aroused by the arrival of an anniversary which they probably would never see again. Mothers whose babes were born in the last week began to have hopes that the little ones would live to see three centuries and get their pictures on the elevated stations and in the newspapers.
Those more gravely inclined were found by the thousand at prayer or praise within the churches when the clocks struck the midnight hour. Communion was celebrated in some churches, in others watch night prayer meetings were held. Preachers pressed home upon their hearers the lessons of the old and the duties of the new century, and recalling some of the great improvements made by man in the last ten decades in the way of scientific development and mechanical invention, expressed fervent hopes that as Americans can count with confidence upon still greater material progress in the future, they could also be assured of the continued march of the human race toward a higher plane, causing the world to become better as it grows greater and older.
Really, except for the glimpse of naked slaves that Henry got at Charles Ross’ party, I think he’d have had more fun downtown at Trinity Church and City Hall.
For her 8th birthday, Henry and Martin give Cora what is probably the best present she has ever received: a toy circus. This is based on a real toy, the Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus, which was made between 1903-1935 – so, actually, years after Cora is given her present. I love toys, and I really love old toys, and although I don’t collect these circus pieces, I’ve been aware of them for years. When I ended up writing about a turn-of-the-century child, I immediately thought of the Schoenhut circus as something she might enjoy. I fretted about this a little bit, because it wasn’t accurate to have a child playing with such an elaborate circus toy as early as 1900, but my extreme fondness for the Schoenhut circus argued in favor of including it, and it’s very unlikely I’ll have the opportunity to put it in a story ever again, so Cora got her gift.
I think of Cora’s circus as looking very much like the Schoenhut one, but overall somewhat smaller, with the animals being more pocket-sized. Her bear would differ from the first one pictured here in that it would be able to stand on its hind legs, but it would definitely have that same crazed expression! The ID guide at the Old Wood Toys site has lots of pictures of the different circus performers and their variations, and I find it all absolutely charming. They’re not realistic, but they’re captivating.
Also, if you’re curious, Cora’s dolls are primarily Bru and Jumeau, and there are zillions of pictures of different dolls from either manufacturer available online. A big grouping of these dolls, like Cora has in the nursery, can be a little unnerving with their big-eyed stares, so it’s understandable that they make Henry a little uneasy, and even more so when you consider the state they’re in after residing awhile with Cora!