Sample report summaries

This page shows sample summaries of research reports from Historicalfic: Historical Research for Fiction Writers. (The actual reports would be e-mailed separately from the summaries.) Every report is custom-designed to fit the research needs and budget of the writer, so if you don't find the type of report here that you're interested in, just contact Historicalfic to enquire further.

On this page:

Candy store in Frederick, Maryland, 1900–1920 (report summary)

Story's genre: Alternate history.

Setting: Frederick, Maryland, during the first decade or two of the twentieth century.

Type of research: Digital research. Exclude subscription databases.

File e-mailed separately. Researcher's summary:

Frederick did indeed have a candy store at the beginning of the twentieth century: Dutrow Confectionery at 31 Market Street. I've found an article reproducing a 1901 advertisement that lists some of the candies the shop carried. The article also reproduces a photo of the shop's soda fountain. Elsewhere, I was able to find historical photos showing candies in the shop windows at Christmas and Easter, as well as turn-of-the-century maps showing the location of the shop. See the attached page.

If there are any particular aspects of the shop that you'd like to know more about – the owner, the shop's activities, and so forth – I can do my best to find out more. I have access, through a subscription database, to issues of a Frederick newspaper between 1910 and 1913; there's a good chance the newspaper will have references to Dutrow's (which stayed in business till 1915). Another subscription database I have access to holds a 1915 business directory from Frederick County that may or may not include an ad from Dutrow's. The free web is also likely to have more information on Dutrow's than I've turned up during this short search, though I think I've found all the references on the free web to the candy at Dutrow's.

If you need general information on candy stores during that period, I ran across some confectioners' journals that I can dig into if you like. In addition, I can check academic books and journal articles in various subscription databases.

On the other hand, if this is all you need, do let me know if this information was of help to you.


Virginia Beach, 1880–1900 (report summary)

Story's genre: Historical romantic suspense.

Setting: Virginia Beach, Virginia, some time between 1880 and 1900.

Types of research: Links to electronic resources, digital research, and a list of research locations. Exclude subscription databases.

Files e-mailed separately. Researcher's summary:

First, the bad news: No Category 5 hurricane has ever hit Virginia Beach. The highest-rated hurricane (in terms of wind speed) to pass near Virginia Beach since 1851 is the hurricane of August 1879 (sometimes called the Great Beaufort Hurricane or the Great Tempest), which was categorized as a Category 3 hurricane when it hit Cape Henry, near Virginia Beach. Some of the sources I consulted suggested that this hurricane may actually have been stronger than Category 3, since the instrument to measure wind blew off at most of the weather stations during the storm. Alas, Virginia Beach wasn't founded till the 1880s (as you know).

So you have two choices that I can see:

1) Move that part of your story to a different location.

2) Create an imaginary hurricane and set it in early Virginia Beach. You could use the hurricane of 1879 as a basis for it.

Let me know if you'd like me to collect more information on the hurricane of 1879.

I've been able to turn up quite a bit of online information about the early history of Virginia Beach: articles, documents, photos, maps, videos, an in-depth dissertation, and public domain e-books. I've also included information on print books that I ran across during my search online.

A few notes:

DeWitt Cottage. You mentioned that you wanted your heroine to live in a seaside cottage. The DeWitt Cottage (variously spelled) is the only nineteenth-century oceanfront cottage that still exists in Virginia Beach. Fortunately, a floor plan exists for it. I've e-mailed separately to you additional information sent to me about the cottage's history from the current owners.

Princess Anne Hotel. You said that you wanted your hero to stay at a hotel. Princess Anne Hotel was the first hotel in Virginia Beach, and for quite a while, it was the only one. I couldn't find a floor plan for it, alas, but an 1888 booklet issued by the hotel (which is online) includes some drawings of the interior, and there are lots of exterior photographs of the hotel available elsewhere on the web and in print. I've also turned up a lovely series of staff memos from the hotel.

The Norwegian Lady, the Dictator, and the Seatack Life-saving Station. The Dictator was a ship that was wrecked off Virginia Beach in 1891 during a bad storm. Some of the crewmen were saved by the "surfmen" of Virginia Beach's lifesaving station. For many years, the figurehead of the ship – dubbed the Norwegian Lady – stood on the ocean side of the Princess Anne Hotel. I linked to information on this in case you wanted to include a storm-related shipwreck in your story.

You asked whether Virginia Beach is worth visiting for research. Well, it's no Williamsburg; the city has done a singularly poor job of preserving its historic waterfront. However, the beach is still there, the DeWitt Cottage is there, and so are a number of museums, history-oriented parks, and research libraries with information on regional history. I've added a section to my report on places you might like to visit, because they relate to your storyline.

That completes the research time you paid for. I've attached the report I compiled. If this looks as though it's enough information for you – and it's quite a bit of information, if you count all the pages in those books and e-books – then we could wrap things up at this point. At any point in the future, if you should decide you needed more information on a particular topic, we could set up a time for me to do more research for you.

Alternatively, if you already know that you want more information, I could tackle the subscription databases for you. What I expect they'd mostly produce are more newspaper articles from the nineteenth century. In fact, the subscription newspapers would probably have so many references to Virginia Beach that, if you wanted me to check the subscription newspapers, I'd suggest that you narrow your topic to a particular aspect of Virginia Beach history. (For the same reason, I didn't try to do a general search for "Virginia Beach" in the non-subscription newspapers. If you wanted me to research a particular topic in them, I could take a stab at them.)

I hope my report is helpful to you. If you have any questions, do let me know.


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