Image; The Great Central Fair, Philadelphia, 1864
So, I wear three hats – or is it I have three heads and put a hat on each one?
First, I work in a local congregation of the United Methodist Church as their assistant minister, director of Christian education, and communications director. That itself is three hats! Or maybe three heads. In which case, I now have six heads total.
Now I’m confusing myself.
Anyway, one of my vocational pursuits is serving a local congregation.
My second hat, or head, is being an author. That’s obvious, right? I really don’t believe I’d be writing a blog five out of seven days just for the fun of it. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy blogging. But the nearly daily deadline can be daunting. What if I run out of ideas? But, it's necessary if I want to get my other work out there – my historical fiction novels and my contemporary romance. Blogging helps. So, job #2 = author.
My third head with a hat is "historian." I have a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture from the Casperson School of Graduate Studies at Drew University. This means I am a bone fide history geek and my disciplinary title is “Americanist.” Bet you can’t guess the era I most enjoy! Too easy, I know. In truth, I have no idea where my affinity for the nineteenth century came from, but I’ve got it – and how.
But my nerdiness is really what I want to address. I’m a soooo geeky that I go bonkers over all that bizarre stuff historians just love. In fact, this very day I got excited over ordering something on Amazon.
You see, I’m working on a short story called “The Great Central Fair” of 1864 in Philadelphia. Part of the tale takes place at a fund raiser for the Sanitary Commission. The Sanitary Commission was a private organization established by federal legislation and designed to help wounded and ill soldiers during the Civil War.
What made the fair so “great” was that it was enormous. It was housed in a building erected specifically for it on Union Street, and its exhibits were numerous. Think of it as a county fair on steroids.
People thronged to the fair, and it raised over $1 million dollars in support of the Sanitary Commission. That was an impressive sum of money in those days. According to the website www.officialdata.org, the inflation rate between 1864 and 2017 is 1389.5%. Therefore, one million dollars in 1864 is equivalent to the purchasing power of $14,894,823.63 in 2017. Yes, that’s right. Let’s put our pinkies to our mouths and say, “Fourteen MILLION dollars.” That’s a lot of cabbage.
I was excited enough when I discovered a PDF copy of the Guide to the fair, something that had been published for its patrons. But since my eyes aren’t happy staring at a screen all the time, I thought I would print the document. To my disappointment, the PDF refused to be printed. Then I got a crazy idea. I wondered if anyone had done a reprint of the Guide. It was a long shot, but weirder things have happened. So, I did an online search. And, yes, I’m happy to report that weirdos really do rule the world. A reprint was available on Amazon. No matter what you think of Amazon, that place does have everything.
So, after doing the celebratory Researcher’s Dance of Joy (they teach this in graduate school), I placed my order for ten dollars. It was only $10; can you believe it? Such a deal! Soon I will be the proud owner of this reprinted piece of American history.
I'm looking forward to wallowing to my heart’s content in the Guide's descriptions of the exhibits and restaurants. Between the Guide and the photographs that I had found at the Library of Congress website, I will be able to give readers a sense of what going to the Great Central Fair was like.
Gee, I hope the Guide’s information about the restaurants include menus. Wouldn’t that be cool to describe what Frankie, Lydia, and beaus are chowing down on? O! Be still, my heart.
So now you understand where I'm coming from and there should be no doubt in your mind. Yes. I really am that much of a geek.
Until tomorrow, gentle readers. I’ll be back with a series of blogs about the characters in my lonely little contemporary romance, Heart Soul & Rock’n’Roll. Because I love rock as much as I love history.
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder