Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Guest post with Laurie Alice Eakes - Day Two


In writing any historical novel, a great deal of research is necessary. Because I couldn’t get to Cape May before writing The Newcomer, I talked to people who had and read both contemporary and historical—contemporary to my time—accounts of the area.

Cape May was quite the resort in its day with excursion trains bringing scores of tourists down every weekend and for weeks in the summer. The elephant mentioned in the book was a real structure. The lighthouse and Victorian homes are still there.

Nowhere did I find evidence of an excursion boat company, and it stood to reason that one would exist on a cape with the Atlantic on one side and Delaware Bay on the other. Surely people wanted to go off for dolphin watches then, too.

Glassmaking is an integral part to all three books, though not directly in The Newcomer. Although I had talked to some glassblowers over the years, the art always fascinating me, I didn’t know how it was done in the past. So I set out to find research materials.

My sister gave me my first resource. She runs a children’s library and recommended the book The Glassmakers by Leonard Everett Fisher. It’s part of a series on colonial artisans and an excellent start, being illustrated and written in simple terms.

Other resources included an 1809 encyclopedia entry I found on Google Books. Through this and some other such sources, I learned some fascinating facts, a few of which I include in the book.

Because in my other life I write Regency romances, I knew that Great Britain has a long history of glassmaking. Scotland produced some of the finest glass in the world; thus, having a Scots hero to be my glassblower emerged as a natural outcome of the research.

One of the most interesting points of research came from learning how the glassmakers produced colored glass. They added various minerals.

Some minerals used to produce glass include: Iron produces green. In fact, due to impurities in the sand, most glass has a greenish tint. Iron and sulfur produces amber and browns, quite possibly the minerals Colin uses in producing his gift for Meg. Tin can produce white glass, and gold can produce red glass. To produce the amethyst goblets for Meg, Colin used manganese.

In the 1830s, uranium began to be used to produce yellowish-green glass. During the Depression, more iron oxide was added for a greener glass, becoming the famous and now collectable Depression Green Glass.

Nowadays, most glass is mass-produced in factories. Where once those who produced it by hand and their own breath were considered artisans, glassmakers today, who use blowpipe and tongs are considered artists. From the work glassmakers left us, we know many of the glassblowers in history were also artists.

Question of the Day: It's September first. What's on tap for you this month? Anything special?


  1. Lots more class, a ton more homework, and one month closer to my degree :)

  2. Good morning, Kaitlin! We're deep into the school thing here this month, too. In fact, my son is working on his Algebra as I type this.

    For me, September brings some travel, as I will be attending the ACFW Conference, and hopefully doing a little sight-seeing in Chicago on the way home.

    I think September also brings edits on a couple of mss.