Friday, April 7, 2017

Pantser or Plotter? by Anita Davison

1908 Ford Model T
As an historical author, I am definitely a plotter and use writing software to help me keep track of character's chronology, physical appearance and birthdays etc.  This is even more important regarding historical research as it's easy to get things wrong and mention something which had not yet been invented in my particular time frame, from household items to idioms. This is particularly relevant in my Canadian Historical Brides story as the beginning of the 20th century was a period of great change in both Canada and England.

As an example, I discovered that in 1905, when my story is set, the motor car had arrived in England as an exciting new innovation. Recognising they were here to stay, the government made specific rules about speeds and legislated for vehicle registration. In fact in 1904, Earl Russel camped all night outside the council offices in London so his motor car could bear the first registration number of A1. So having my affluent middle-class characters racing round the city in a motor car and being able to park it anywhere they liked, is an exciting element of the story.

Not so in Prince Edward Island, where the motor car wasn't quite so popular.  In 1866, Father G.A. Belcourt shocked everyone by driving a steam powered horseless carriage through their St. Jean Baptiste Day picnic. It must have taken a while for islanders to recover as the next motor car to arrive was in 1900, when a group of Charlottetown businessmen bought a charabang type vehicle, again steam powered, which carried ten people and offered rides at 10 cents. 

In 1901 it was joined by a personal, gasoline powered motor car and by 1908, there were a grand total of seven motor cars on the island. These early vehicles were vile smelling and much noisier than modern ones, thus their existence provoked angry letters sent to newspapers complaining that these vehicles were unsuitable for the narrow country roads and more importantly, their backfires upset the horses and many bolted, causing near-accidents. 

This is possibly apocryphal, but some people declared they were afraid to travel to town on market days for fear of being injured when motor cars spooked their horses. Church attendance dropped and families stopped visiting each other - all this blamed on seven cars!

Public opinion counted on the island, and with Canada as a whole was experiencing economic depression, most people saw these noisy metal machines as extravagant toys for the rich. Thus between March 1908 [the same year Anne of Green Gables was published]  and 1913, motor cars were actually banned on the island and few of the population apparently missed them. Even then, different townships had different rules so the motor car still wasn't welcome everywhere. One story tells of a man who had to put his motor on a flatbed in Summerside and take it to Charlottetown where he could drive it round the streets. This didn't change until 1918.

In order to make my story authentic, my heroine won't be dodging motor cars on the Charlottetown streets!  

Island Magazine
[This source is particularly fascinating as it includes local stories]

1 comment:

  1. enjoyed the post, and you've found a local magazine; that's awesome.