Pictorials, Paper Dolls and Old Magazines

We went to Arizona to visit family over Christmas vacation. It was our first trip there ever and one of the highlights (among many) for me, was our visit to Tombstone, the town that didn’t die. I walked the streets of history that I’d only seen in books — pictorial histories, which I discovered years ago when I wasn’t writing, hadn’t been published, hadn’t a thought I ever would be published.

Pictorial histories put me in the picture. I didn’t have to have lived in that time and place to describe what I saw in those old photographs, I was writing westerns initially — five of my first nine books (I know — who would have thought) — so I relied heavily on pictorial histories (Before Barbed Wire is a good one) to describe how it was from those taken-at-the-time photographs.

I love them, don’t you?

When I veered into the Victorian era, I found troves of photographic histories on everything from harems to Sherlock Holmes’s London. I also loved the reproduction editions of the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues from the 1890s. Especially the house kits. I love floor plans.

And for clothes — I bet most of us have the Dover paper doll editions as well as their photographic histories of fashion. But at some point, it occurred to me that there might be a wealth of other kinds of paper dolls on-line : fictional characters, movie stars (from the thirties and forties), teenagers from the fifties, along with accurate depictions of the fashions of the times.

And then — old magazines. I found about a half dozen copies of Ladies Home Journal from the 1920’s in a basement we were clearing out. I pored over them for years. I added to that collection when I realized I could find more magazines from the 20s on-line — from any era, really. Is there anything more immediate than reading a woman’s magazine of the day? The articles, the advertisements, the fashions, the advice — personal and decorating … how different, how the same …

I haven’t succumbed to one of those “build your own” western towns or southern plantations. Yet. (I’m very tempted by the plantation, though.) I do have a Victorian house pop-up book that came complete with its own punch-out family. And lots of furniture. I haven’t set it up. Yet. I just like looking at it and imagining what’s happening there. You know — family secrets, secret panels, something the family album, ghosts on the staircase, eerie dreams, hovering fog, blanketing snow, a haunted attic …

Of course, a lot of this is available on-line. Call me old school. I like holding a book.

And of course, before we left Tombstone — I took loads of pictures. I don’t know if I’m ever going to write another western, but you never know: I do have a couple of ideas.. So — do I even need to say? — I bought all the pictorial histories I could find as well.
Do you love paper dolls, pictorial histories and old magazines? Do you ever use them? Do you have a secret source you’d like to tell?

My Secret, just between you and me: there are Downton Abbey paper dolls on-line.

Thea Devine is currently working on her next erotic contemporary romance — and readying those original backlist westerns for eBook release.


3 thoughts on “Pictorials, Paper Dolls and Old Magazines”

  1. Thea, you touched my heart. I love history, taught it, breathed it, built it, it’s my blog and I still explore and it’s my WIP. If you want to walk through an amazing architectural work of Victoriana (my shortcut word), then come visit Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum on West Avenue in Norwalk, Connecticut. Jamie S. asked about having a high tea there with our group, CTRWA. And to top it all off, my hubby’s family founded Branford, Connecticut. The house is a small museum on Main Street. “The Harrison House.” We went to Darby, England to research the origins of the Harrison’s. Oh, there’s more, but I don’t want to use up my welcome. I want to congratulate you on your many publications.
    How wonderful . . . which one is written in Victoriana?

    1. Thea I really enjoyed your Blog for I also love history and have studied it from many sources. As a child I spent hours at the library looking through old Magazines, and can picture just what you’re saying. I am very excited about your original backlist westerns being released on eBook. To me there nothing better than a Western romance, its much more run on horseback! As for secret source, I love documents and reading historical accounts plus visiting historical places and looking at photos too.

      1. Thank you Bonnie — and Gail. My especial addiction is women’s civil war diaries. I just love the fact that as writers we can free-range through all time periods. I’m very excited about the reissues and will post more when I have the specific release date.

        To Gail, re: my erotic victorian romances: I played on specific Victorian memes for some of them: sex clubs, the cult of the little girl, a colony of hedonists (loosely based on the Happy Valley colony), to name several. I started writing in the Victorian era with Beyond Desire in 1993, which was the first historical reviewed and niched as erotic romance. I love going through Victorian houses; I’m fascinated that you have such a deep-rooted connection to Branford.


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