Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt Stop 13

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt Stop 13

Welcome to the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! If you’ve just discovered the hunt, be sure to start at Stop #1, and collect the clues through all the stops, in order, so you can enter to win one of our top 5 grand prizes!

  • The hunt BEGINS on 6/15 at noon MST with Stop #1 at
  • Hunt through our loop using Chrome or Firefox as your browser (not Explorer).
  • There is NO RUSH to complete the hunt—you have all weekend (until Sunday, 6/18 at midnight MST)! So take your time, reading the unique posts along the way; our hope is that you discover new authors/new books and learn new things about them.
  • Submit your entry for the grand prizes by collecting the CLUE on each author’s scavenger hunt post and submitting your answer in the Rafflecopter form at the final stop, back on Lisa’s site. Many authors are offering additional prizes along the way!

Whether you’re already a fan or I’m a new-to-you author, welcome! I’m Crystal Caudill, and I love to write spiritually rich historical romances fraught with danger and suspense. I do a ton of research with each of my books, and I have an entire shelf dedicated to what my children call “the murder shelf,” aka my criminal investigation, how to commit crimes, and poisonous plants books. You can find out more about me, my books, and my monthly reading challenge here on my website and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, GoodReads, or BookBub. Despite what my “murder shelf” indicates, I’m not a criminal. I just write romance stories that often contain crimes. You can read about my latest crime-related release, Counterfeit Faith, below:


As Matron of Final Chance House of Refuge, Gwendolyn Ellison is responsible for the care and reformation of children deemed delinquents by society. When she discovers someone is abusing the children, she seeks to expose the abuse. But someone wants to keep it and their other secrets hidden, even if it means committing murder. Secret Service operative Josiah Isaacs can’t help but rescue a damsel-in-distress, but saving Gwendolyn leads to his discovery of a counterfeiting scheme that jeopardizes both Gwendolyn’s and the children’s lives. As they work together to solve the case and protect the children, attraction sparks between them. But Josiah is put off by Gwendolyn’s faith in a God he no longer trusts. If they survive, is a future together even possible when their beliefs are at odds?


The idea for this novel’s crime came from newspaper clippings I found while researching counterfeiting and the Secret Service. And now, it is my nerdy little joy to teach you something criminal . . .

How to Con a Con

I think everyone on the internet has received at least one email where a scammer tries to trick you into buying something fake so they can take your money. Generally, these con men are preying on innocent people. However, late 19th-century con men had their eyes on a completely different mark for their scheming ways: other con men. This tactic was so often used and so well-known that the newspapers consistently printed warnings and example letters. This con even had its own special name: The Green Goods Game.  

So for your entertainment purposes only, I present “How to Con a Con.”

Example circular of a Green Goods Game scheme as printed in the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette on 8/10/1890.

The Target: Merchants and shop owners who are likely to pass counterfeits off to their customers as they conduct regular business. Identify struggling merchants, particularly those who are more likely to bend their moral stances to save their stores or those you already know or suspect will buy counterfeits. 

The Strategy: Mail circulars to targeted businessmen and indicate you have counterfeit money of good quality to sell at a reasonable price. Flatter and appeal to their sense of working with a friend. Have them respond to you by mail with their signature, address, and the phrase: “Please send me terms, particulars, &c.’

If they respond, provide an “example” of your work in the form of a genuine one-dollar note. Then, when they purchase said counterfeit money, either have them meet you to pick up their product or mail it to them.

1880 One Dollar Legal Tender Bank Note

The Trade and the REAL Product: If your client wishes to see the product before exchanging money, it may be necessary to set up a switch. Show them some genuine notes, cause a distraction, and then provide them with a roll of green-dyed paper with a genuine note facing out on each side. Otherwise, if they mail you the money, there is no need to mail them anything back.

Why It Works: What person will report to the police that they were conned while attempting to purchase counterfeit money? After all, purchasing counterfeit money is a punishable crime in and of itself. 

WARNING: If the Post-office Inspector discovers you are participating in this scheme, you will be arrested and held with a default bail of $2,500 (about $83,000 today).

So reader, are you willing to take the risk to con a con?

Here’s Your Critical Stop #13 Info:

If you’re interested, you can order Counterfeit Faith on Amazon, Baker Book House, Barnes & Noble, or at your local bookstore!

Clue to Write Down: and just

Link to Stop #14, the Next Stop on the Loop: Roseanna M. White’s site!

But wait!!! Don’t go yet!!

I’m holding my own giveaway right here! All you have to do is sign up for my newsletter. (You’ll get Counterfeit Truth free out of the deal too!) Bonus points to those who follow me on Bookbub and/or Facebook. Just use the King Sumo widget below. This is open to everyone who is legally able to participate, but if you are an international reader, I will send you an Amazon gift card and some bookmarks, stickers, and a signed bookplate instead. The winner of this giveaway will be selected on June 19th and notified by email afterward. What are you winning? Glad you asked . . .

Prize: Homemade Booksleeve, Set of Page Flags, Bible Journaling Stickers, Set of Book Quote Stickers, Metalic Ink Pens, Counterfeit Love Notebook (to journal in or better yet! Keep track of all your great reads), Counterfeit Money Detector, and a Set of Hidden Hearts of the Gilded Age bookmarks.
And if you are having trouble getting entered, just shoot me a note through my contact form, or comment below. Bonus entries for signing up for my newsletter, following me on BookBub, GoodReads, or Facebook.

Best of luck, and happy hunting! – Crystal

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Houses of Refuge

Houses of Refuge

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Initially, in my research for Counterfeit Faith, I began my studies looking at the history of orphanages intending for my story to be set there. However, during my research, I stumbled upon the concept of a House of Refuge. Having worked a summer during college at a camp for at-risk youth, my heart was immediately drawn to this setting and the stories of the children who were deemed juvenile delinquents. I had to know more, and you can read the results of that study in the story. However, like any historical novel, I couldn’t include everything I learned. So this is blog post is an attempt to give a brief overview of Houses of Refuge.

“To accomplish the work of reformation, it is essential that depraved children should be removed from the contaminating contact with wicked associates, both adult and juvenile, and transplanted to a purer and more health-inspiring moral atmosphere. Many of them have been roughly treated by the world, and should be looked upon ‘with a countenance more in sorrow than in anger.’ The light which guided them was not that of virtue, but the lurid glare springing from the polluted and deathly quagmires or society. If any man proud of his integrity and high social position should be tempted to look sternly on erring youth, he should reflect on what he might have been, if penury and ignorance had been the only endowments of his childhood.”


Thomas Budd upon the opening of the new White Female Department Building, January 20th, 1872

Why They Were Created

Prior to the early 1800s, convicted youths were confined to jails and penitentiaries with hardened criminals, regardless of the crimes or noncriminal behavior that placed them there. A child who had been picked up off the street for vagrancy may have been in the same cell as a man who had brutally murdered someone. Not only were they housed with adults, but the institutions were also overcrowded, many of them decrepit. It was a terrible situation that came under the notice of a social welfare movement.

Thomas Eddy and John Griscom organized the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism, establishing the first House of Refuge in 1825. It was located in Manhattan, New York, and remained open until 1935. Many other institutions throughout the country followed suit, creating their our state or privately ran Houses of Refuge. These institutes were designed to house poor, destitute, and vagrant youth who were deemed by authorities to be on the path toward delinquency. In other words, Houses of Refuge were the predecessors to today’s juvenile justice system.

How Did a House of Refuge Work?

There were some varying differences from institution to institution, but in general, youths under the age of 21 who had been abandoned, convicted of a crime, or homeless could be referred to the institution through a judge or mayor for at least one year. Many of those children actually spent an indefinite amount of time in these institutions before being placed into indenture agreements, where the inmates would work and train under the supervision of their employer until they reached the age of 21. If a child could not be indentured in cases of mental physical infirmity or otherwise, they could be returned to friends (as they believed the parents were generally a bad influence on the children), sent to the almshouse (poorhouse), or otherwise “placed out.” Girls were trained in housewifery, sewing, washing, and cooking. Anything that went along with managing a house or serving in a house that could afford paid help. Boys were apprenticed sed to apprentice as farmers, printers, tanners, carpenters, blacksmiths, and shoemakers.


Indentured Locations May 1834


However, before children could reach this position of indentured service, they had to earn the right of relative freedom granted through such an agreement. When children were brought into the institutions, they were divided up by sex and then advanced through the following classes. (*This was the class system of the Philadelphia House of Refuge, but each institution had its own variant.)


About Division of Inmates

“The children shall be divided into eleven classes, class No. 10 being the lowest–advancing to No. 1–and the eleventh being the Class of Honor. When admitted, they shall be placed in Class No. 10, and be promoted (when deserving) monthly, until they have gone through the first ten classes, when they shall be placed in the Class of Honor. After they have been two months in that class, they shall be placed in charge of the Indenturing Committee: Provided, that nothing in this rule shall prevent the Board of Managers from discharging a child when it is obviously to the advantage of the child that he or she should not be longer retained.” – By-laws, Rules, & Regulations of the Board of Managers of the House of Refuge: Adopted 1876 (Philadelphia, PA)


An Inmate’s Day

The children’s days were highly regimented with a focus on moral, intellectual, and physical improvement. Days began at 5 am and went until an 8 pm bedtime. The children would labor for six to seven hours, have schooling for three hours, have 30 minutes for each meal, 30 minutes of devotional time, and three hours of recreational time–all of which was strictly supervised. The concept was that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. The children’s labor supported the operating expenses for the reformatory. You can see the items produced in 1834 by the Philadelphia House of Refuge below, as well as a sample schedule.



What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The goal of a House of Refuge was to reform, educate, and provide a Christian moral foundation for inmates so that they could become productive and desired members of society. Unfortunately, like many institutions, Houses of Refuges had the best intentions but suffered from the same issues that plagued the adult facilities. Houses of Refuge quickly outgrew their capacity and became overcrowded, suffered from deteriorating conditions, and staff abuse. In 1876, the Philadelphia House of Refuge underwent a nine-day investigation into abuse. Members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives “found that the board punished children by banning play, sending them to bed without supper, placing them in solitary confinement, and even imposing lashings. The board forced children to labor in institutional workshops six days a week without pay and, to make matters worse, thousands of dollars in profits from the goods produced went directly to the board. Despite the prevalence of punishments, the House committee deemed that the board’s actions were not abusive.” (The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, “House of Refuge” by James Kopaczewski.)

By WWII, most, if not all, Houses of Refuge had either closed or restructured and changed their names or taken on the new concept of juvenile jails. You can still find private and state-ran boarding school situations for at-risk youth all over the country. While they hold many similarities to the Houses of Refuge of old, it is my hope they do not suffer from the same issues that plagued their predecessor.

So what are your thoughts on Houses of Refuge, reader? What questions do you have?

RESOURCES: (A Small sampling)

Budd, T. A. (n.d.). An address delivered at the opening of the new building of the White Female Department of the House of Refuge, January 20th, 1872. HathiTrust. (Address given on January 20th, 1872.)

Henry, A., & Barclay, J. J. (1835, May 1). Annual report of the House of Refuge of Philadelphia. 7th. HathiTrust.

Juvenile Justice History. Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. (n.d.).

Kopaczewski, J. (2022, March 28). House of Refuge. Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.

New York State Archives. (1989). The Greatest Reform School in the world: A guide to the records of the New York House of Refuge. The Greatest Reform School in the World.

Philadelphia : Edmund Deacon’s Frankling Printing House. (1876, January 1). By-laws, rules and regulations of the Board of Managers of the House of Refuge : Adopted, January, 1876. Internet Archive.

Pickett, R. S. (1969). House of Refuge: Origins of Juvenile Reform in New York State, 1815-1857. Syracuse University Press.

Teerters, N. K. (n.d.). The Early Days of the Philadelphia House of Refuge.

A Tour of 1880s Philadelphia

A Tour of 1880s Philadelphia

Counterfeit Truth and Counterfeit Faith take place in Philadelphia, and while so much of the city has stayed the same, much of it has changed. In this tour, I’m sharing pictures of settings from Counterfeit Faith during my whirlwind two-day tour of Philadelphia. First off, did you know that Philadelphia is only two miles from river to river? I couldn’t believe how much they had cram-packed into that little space, but WOW. So, in reality, the majority of my story took place within two square miles. That really just blows my mind. So let’s take off.

Of course, Carpenters Hall was under construction when I went.

The Philadelphia Library, where Josiah first laid eyes on Gwendolyn as he came down those stairs.

Carpenters Hall is where we must start our tour because, of course, that is where Gwendolyn first starts out waiting for Mr. Farwell. You might have caught on to my intentional pun with his name if you’ve read the book. Poor Mr. Farwell must say farewell during the story, and I just couldn’t help myself. Nothing about Independence Park is the same as when Counterfeit Faith took place. In 1885, Carpenter Hall sat in the center of a city block surrounded by other businesses and buildings. There were a couple of alleys to access it, but there was no direct view. If you notice the cobblestone part of the walkway, that was approximately the size of the entrance between buildings to access Carpenters Hall.


It was while leaving this building that Josiah first laid eyes on Gwendolyn. It’s a good thing he did too, and more importantly, he noticed Quincy’s knife blade. It was at this location that everything was set into motion for two people to come together to rescue at-risk children, find love, and face more than their share of danger.  For a woman who is used to being ignored or having to rescue herself, Josiah’s heroic intervention sets her heart aflutter and stirs dreams of romance that she’d long thought dead. Personally, I was a little giddy getting to stand on these steps and imagine the heroic rescue as it occurred. Of course, some of the buildings have been moved, and things don’t look 100% the way they did, but it was close enough to really enjoy the experience.


Houses that look like Josiah’s would have.

While the gorgeous houses on Arch Street described in the book no longer exist, I did see some houses that are similar in style. They’re larger than some of the other homes I found, and they had those stoops, shutters, and arched doorways that I was looking for. It was the best match I could find, and my mind relished imagining Josiah and Gwendolyn conversing on those steps.


Josiah worked for the Secret Service, which had offices in the unfinished City Hall building. When Josiah was there, the tower would not have been finished yet, nor would the giant William Penn statue have been on display. He worked in the judicial wing, and his office was hidden behind numbers without signage. He would have taken one of the sets of floating stairs to get to his floor of the building. These were such an architectural phenomenon that Wanamakers, the department store across the street, sold pamphlets and tours to show off those stairs. As you can see below, no supports are beneath it, just solid pieces of granite worked into the wall. Originally I had Josiah nervous to walk on them, but after having walked them myself, I knew Josiah wouldn’t have had a problem. They are so beautiful and fascinating I had to include pictures of all three views of the stairs.

Going back to Wanamaker. I don’t know if you caught it in the story, but Wanamaker’s was the department store where Gwendolyn’s mother and aunt worked. It was one of the first of its kind, offering set prices, return policies, various departments, artwork as fine as you would find in a gallery, and service for all levels of customers. Wanamaker was a brilliant man who helped to change the way people shopped. No more dickering and haggling over prices. Everyone paid the same price for the same item. Wanamaker’s no longer exists, but the store is now a Macy’s. Believe it or not, Wanamaker made the bold move of buying a former train station to turn it into his department store. I’m not sure if this location was the original train station location, but it’s definitely taller than it would have been in 1885. Those other floors were added later.


I’ll end my tour with a nod to Felicity from Counterfeit Truth. One of my big goals of this trip was to eat a Philadelphia pretzel . . . but apparently, they aren’t as big now as they were during Felicity’s time. The ONE pretzel I found was a sore disappointment that had to be rectified by going to my favorite pretzel place when I got home. However, the Reading Market (I think?) DID have some chocolate ice cream for me to sample from Bassetts that I must heartily agree is amazing. The whole time I ate that giant cone, I thought of Felicity eating ice cream with Mr. Cochran. If you haven’t read that book yet, you can download a free copy by joining my newsletter or purchasing it on Amazon.


A Tour of Counterfeit Hope’s Story World

A Tour of Counterfeit Hope’s Story World

Why would I set a counterfeiting romantic suspense story in rural Indiana? As usual, research is the answer.

I discovered an article from 1883 describing the successful arrest of the Honchins (or Houchins, depending on the resource) gang by a joint effort of the Secret Service and US Marshals. The gang was responsible for not only counterfeiting but killing stock, stealing, and terrorizing the citizens with threats, insults, and violence. Even the local police were afraid to stand up against them. Stendal was the original town I was going to use, but I ended up creating a sister town next to Stendal so that I could set up the building locations and population to better suit my needs. While the original undercover Secret Service operatives spent months covering three or more counties, I needed to focus my area a little more confined for the sake of plotting. Below you can find information on two real locations from the story, including pictures of my visit to the real Stendal.

Stendal, IN

Stendal owes its beginnings to the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church which was formed in 1861. Services were held in members’ homes until 1864, when a church was built. In 1867, Reverend William G.C. Bauermeister became the first resident pastor. Land was donated to form the town, and he named it Stendal after his birthplace in Saxony.

As is usually the case with rural locations, modern-day Stendal is a shadow of the town it once was. While it was always small compared to other areas, it was once a booming little town. This was largely due to Stendal being many miles from any railroad or waterway with nearly impassible roads and trails, making it necessary to be a self-contained town.

From: A History of Lockhart Township by McKinley Hagemeyer

“Stendal at one time had a tobacco barn, a cooper’s shop, cobbler’s shop, two furniture and casket factories, two blacksmith shops, a millinery, a wagon works, a brickyard, a livery stable, a gristmill, a sawmill, a creamery, a flour mill, a canning factory, three churches, three doctors, an undertaker, a barber shop, a saddle and harness shop, and, of course, few towns would be self-contained without a saloon and hotel. Stendal had those too. The same causes which brought these industries drove them away: bad roads, poor transportation, plus another, automation. When the need for them passed, they too surrendered to progress.”
Photos of my trip to Stendal and photos of Stendal’s glory days.

Boonville, IN

One of my favorite parts of the Boonville setting was visiting the Boonville Jail. Well, visit it in fiction. I never had the pleasure of visiting it in real life. I know there was a big push to have the building restored in 2019, but there have been no more posts from the group pushing for it since then.

The Boonville Jail

The Warrick County Jail was built in 1876 and was state-of-the-art for its time. I had running water for sinks, toilets, and showers. The cells were made of straight and corrugated iron bars. The building had a large yard surrounding it and large windows with glazed glass. The jail was built in two sections. The main level of the front part held a food pantry, kitchen, parlor, and main hall. The upstairs was used as living quarters for the sheriff and his family and space to hold female prisoners. From my understanding, the kitchen had a steel door barrier to the prisoners, and it was the responsibility of the sheriff and his family to cook and serve meals to the prisoners. Meals were cooked for the prisoners and delivered to their cells.

The back half was one and a half stories tall with 12 prison cells. It had high arched ceilings for airflow and to prevent escape attempts. In each lighted and ventilated cell, there were two bunks, a sink, and a toilet. The walls were 22 inches thick and plated on the inside with boiler iron.  Below are a few pictures of the jail.

Here are some pictures of Boonville back in the 19th century.







Why does the Secret Service Exist

Why does the Secret Service Exist

It’s release month for Counterfeit Love and I thought it might be fun to share some of my behind-the-scenes research of the Hidden Hearts of the Gilded Age series. I’ll also be running a giveaway all month long with each Counterfeit Love / Secret Service post for your chance to win one of three prizes. Read through this post to the bottom to discover the details.

Did you know that the Secret Service didn’t officially start protecting the president until 1902 but were established in 1865? So what did they do for those almost forty years?

The answer? Track down and arrest counterfeiters.

The Early Days of the Secret Service

It is estimated that one-third of the circulating U.S. currency was counterfeit during the period of the Civil War. How is that possible? Well, until 1863, there was no national currency. Each state and bank had its own design for banknotes making it an easy world for counterfeiters to thrive. When the United States instituted a national currency in 1863, the problem of counterfeiting continued to thrive, which was bad news for our country. Public confidence in a nation’s currency is critical to the health of the country’s economy, and the United States was in serious trouble.

On April 14th, 1865 Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCullough brought attention to the growing trouble of counterfeiting and insisted a permanent, continuous, aggressive organized effort was needed to thwart this menace to the economy. Abraham Lincoln agreed and authorized him to move forward. That same night, Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Despite the turmoil in the government that followed, on July 5, 1865, William P. Wood was sworn in as the first Chief of the U.S. Secret Service.

About 30 men made up this first group of Secret Service operatives. Headquarters was established in Washington D.C. while eleven field offices were placed in cities throughout the country. A guide list of six “general orders” was issued*:

  1. Each man must recognize that his service belongs to the government through 24 hours of every day.
  2. All must agree to assignment to the locations chosen by the Chief and respond to whatever mobility of movement the work might require.
  3. All must exercise such careful saving of money spent for travel, subsistence, and payments for information as can be self-evidently justified.
  4. Continuing employment in the Service will depend upon demonstrated fitness, ability as investigators, and honesty and fidelity in all transactions.
  5. The title of regular employees will be Operative, Secret Service. Temporary employees will be Assistant Operatives or Informants.
  6. All employment will be at a daily pay rate; accounts submitted monthly. Each operative will be expected to keep on hand enough personal reserve funds to carry on Service business between paydays.

(*Taken from The United States Secret Service by Warren S. Bowen and Harry Edward Neal.)

Credentials came in the form of handwritten letters of appointment until an incident in 1871 made them reconsider. Ira W. Raymond waltzed into a field office posing as an operative and demanded all contraband be turned over to him. The operative on duty felt it odd he wouldn’t have been notified and telegrammed headquarters. Raymond was arrested, but this prompted Chief Whitley (the second Chief) to design and issue distinctive badges and printed credentials to all members of the Secret Service.

These badges were five-pointed, silver stars with lacework engraved into each point. “U.S. Secret Service” was stamped into the center of each. Operatives had $25 deducted from their paycheck for the badges, with the promise it would be returned upon retirement when they turned in their badge. Each operative carried engraved and printed credentials called commissions from that point forward.

Unfortunately, the first two administrations of the Secret Service were fraught with scandal, leaving a cloud hanging over the public image of the division. Chief Washburn made some repairs to their reputation, but it was Chief James J. Brooks who really turned things around.

One of Chief Brooks’s first acts what to compile and issue the first formal manual of instructions for operatives. These were called “General Orders No. 4.” It was under his reformation that the Secret Service was officially recognized as its own division with the Treasury Department and had its own budget, limited as it was. Chief Brooks was a hard man and did not believe in vacations for his men. Any leave of absence was given without pay. But through his leadership, public opinion began to shift in a more positive direction toward the Secret Service.

Curious to learn more? I’ll be posting more over the coming weeks. Or you can check out the bonus content section of my website.

Your chance to comment: Did you know any random facts about the Secret Service? Was there anything particularly interesting that stuck out to you?

Enter the Rafflecopter below to be entered to win one of three prizes: (Grand prize) – A signed copy of Counterfeit Love with a book sleeve made by my Momma, a toe bag with story-related prizes inside, (2nd prize) – A signed copy of Counterfeit Love with a book sleeve made by my Momma, socks, and a bookmark, (3rd prize) A signed copy of Counterfeit Love with a book sleeve made by my Momma and a bookish zipper bag. Entries run from March 1st to March 31st, 11:59pm EST. *Open to those legally able to enter, U.S. residents only for the physical prizes, international winners will be given a prize of equal value to whichever level they win.*

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The Gilded Age: What is it really?

The Gilded Age: What is it really?

It’s release month for Counterfeit Love and I thought it might be fun to share some of my behind-the-scenes research of the Hidden Hearts of the Gilded Age series. I’ll also be running a giveaway all month long with each Counterfeit Love / Secret Service post for your chance to win one of three prizes. Read through this post to the bottom to discover the details.

What is the Gilded Age?

When most people think of the Gilded Age, they generally think of the lavishly rich, fancy ball gowns and dinners, and New York. However the Gilded Age is so much more complex than that, and that’s why I love to write during this era.

The Gilde Age is actually a term coined by the ever sarcastic and famous satirical writer, Mark Twain, in a book he collaborated with Charles Dudley Warner on called The Gilded Age. The term Gilded Age was meant as a jab at the gross materialism and political corruption of his time. While everything was glittering, beautiful, and elegant on the surface, the moment one scratched at it, they’d discover gross corruption at the core. On a caricature level, the late 19th century was a period of massive immigration, socio-economic turmoil, rapacious Robber Barons, unscrupulous speculators, corporate buccaneers, shady business practices, scandal-plagued politics, and vulgar displays of materialism and wealth. This is one of the reasons why I love this era. It is so complex and intricate that I just never want to leave studying it.

While most people expect stories of the wealthy and elite when seeing “Gilded Age,” I love to take a look at it from the experiences of the varied classes and their experiences. There was a dark underbelly to the Gilded Age, and I love to explore it. However, I do like to see it from the perspective of the rich as well. It is like examing two very different worlds, and I find it incredibly fascinating.

A Period of Transition

During the 1870s, society as a whole was transitioning from largely agrarian to industrial–in part due to the repercussions of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, and in part due to the massive innovations brought on by the Industrial Revolution. Many farmers and immigrants shifted to big cities to work in the factories that provided steady work and steady pay. The way businesses operated transformed and cooperations emerged with a focus on gaining the most profit possible at the cost of others. Labor unrest was a constant issue during the Gilded Age as corporations were treated as people rather than businesses, an especially terrible slap in the face to now freed slaves who were people but had only been considered property.

This was a period where Robber Barons emerged–people who because rich through often ruthless and unscrupulous business practices. Of course, not everyone who became rich met that definition, but this was largely the view of society outside the ranks of the upper-class society. These corporations had huge influences on politics, and often politicians were portrayed as merely being the puppets of those corporations. The period from 1870 to 1900 was marked by increased poverty, rising inequality, and bubbling discontent beneath the gilded filigree of society.

Big Picture Events and Issues

Image by jimo663 from Pixabay

While the “Wild West” will live on in infamy, it was during this period that the western frontier actually began to close. The open ranges were closed in by barbed wire fences. Millions of acres of land were snatched up and populated. Native Americans were confined to reservations and then pushed farther west onto new reservations. Treaties were made to the disadvantage of the people and another Trial of Tears occurred. In fact, part of my family’s heritage cannot be traced back any further than this time because of how much was lost in this tragedy.

Technology and communication exploded during the Gilded Age. Telephones, electricity, machines, even the mass-circulation of newspapers and magazines, redefined aspects of the United States in unprecedented ways. With technology came more leisure time for new sports and entertainment to be developed. Transporation grew exponentially, opening up the country to easy travel and new migration patterns. Over these years, horse-led transportation diminished as trains, automobiles, electric trolleys, and others were developed.

Mass immigration poured millions of people into country giving rise to anti-immigrant reactions. Limitations on immigration from certain places started to appear, and the grouping of immigrants arriving shifted to larger numbers of Hungarian, Italian, Polish, and Russian peoples. Often these unskilled workers sought out cities where they could work at factories, often for horrifically low pay.

I talked a little bit about big business already, but this period is when the modern American economy emerged. Our economy became more globalized, dependent on products from around the world to supply the materials needed. Small businesses were consolidated and bought out. It was a dynamic time of wealth and poverty.

Politics too played a significant role during this time. The 1880s and 1890s especially were years of turbulence. Political conflicts were constant with corporations having an influencing hand in many areas. Farmers and laborers fought for fair representation and support against those corporations who they felt took advantage of them. You also have the beginnings of suffragist and civil rights movements.

Why I Write Gilded Age

As you can see, there is just SOOOO much conflict and depth that can be mined from this time period. I love looking at all the different perspectives and challenges that were faced by the people. So while you might think of all that glitters when you see the words Gilded Age, know that it is so much more than that, and I hope to bring some of those aspects and struggles to life in my stories.

A Second Gilded Age

Something I found interesting in my research is that the term Gilded Age has been applied to our current era by many different sources. There are parallels, but not completely. I just thought it fascinating, and if you’d like to read a succinct article on some of that, you can visit the History Channel’s article about it here.

Your chance to comment: What sort of things do you think of when you hear “Gilded Age” in relation to a fiction story?

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