Showing posts from September, 2016

Petticoat Travellers - Early 20th Century Steamship Travel

While researching my first cosy mystery set on an ocean liner in 1900, I came across a fascinating, though tongue-in cheek article entitled,  ‘The Ethics of Ocean Travel’ written by journalist Earl Mayo for Era Magazine, in 1904, written at a time when Trans Atlantic steamship travel was becoming fashionable.

He gives an interesting and amusing portrait of ocean life, especially in respect of the innovation of women travelling to foreign countries.

‘The woman traveling abroad without male escort was so much a rare avis as to be a negligible quantity a generation ago, or even more recently. To be sure there were women who crossed the Atlantic on their own responsibility in the days of our mothers, or even in those of our grandmothers, but in the infrequent cases when this happened the chances were ninety-nine out of a hundred that she was to be joined at the moment of landing by a husband, brother, or some other relative.’

‘Now, however, all this is changed. We are living in the age and…

SS Minneapolis

The first in my cosy mystery series begins with Flora's Secret, where my heroine Flora Maguire travels home to England on the SS Minneapolis' maiden voyage from New York. This steamship was a mini-Titanic, a luxurious floating hotel catering for a small complement of First Class Passengers

The Minneapolis was the first of the four famous Minne class ships ordered by Bernard N. Baker in 1898. An Atlantic Transport Line brochure brochure issued in 1923 boasted, "no ship ever had a more devoted following than these," and in 1947 the Minnes were described by the New York Times as "probably the most popular single-class ships in Atlantic shipping history."

The Minneapolis cost $1,419,120 (£292,000) to build and had the largest registered tonnage of any ship afloat excepting the Oceanic when she was launched. Unusually, her maiden voyage began from New York and arrived on the Thames for the first time on May 1, 1900.

The Minne sisters were among the first ships…

Fingerprinting in 1900

One of the fascinating aspects of researching an historical cosy mystery, is discovering when more modern accepted methods of detection were used in the past. In ancient Babylon, fingerprints were used as signatures on clay tablets for business transactions, but it wasn't until 1901 that fingerprints were considered a useful tool in the detection of crime.

In 1684, Dr. Nehemiah Grew wrote a Royal Society of London paper containing accurate drawings of finger ridge patterns, although it wasn't for another two hundred years that these idiocyncrasies of the human body were used for personal identification.

In 1858, when Sir William James Herschel, Chief Magistrate in Jungipoor, India, had a local businessman, impress his handprint on a contract, allegedly to discourage him from repudiating his signature. This worked so well, Herschel made a habit of requiring palm prints, then later  the prints of the right index and middle fingers. This led to the local superstition that person…

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