Monday, March 28, 2011

Life in the Late 1800s Was Far Different from Today

While writing Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, my book that released in May, I came up against a problem. The heroine and her two servants need to travel from Boston to Golden, New Mexico, by train. On their journey, they would also take an orphaned baby. My dilemma? How to feed the baby. The year is 1892.

I knew that when a mother died, a wet nurse (a mother who was nursing her own infant) would often step in and keep the baby alive. Or the people with the motherless baby would hire a wet nurse. On wagon trains, when a mother of an infant died, other nursing mothers on the wagon train helped feed the child. All this information wouldn't help me with that book, but it did help me with my upcoming McKenna's Daughters Series with Charisma House. Book one, Maggie's Journey, will release in October.

In my search for information, I found that the first commercial infant formula was invented in Europe in 1869. The powdered formula was added to warmed cow's milk. A version of this formula was also sold in the US that same year. However, the cost of $1.00 per bottle was prohibitave for most families.

Henri Nestle created a formula, also in Europe, to treat malnourished babies. This formula didn't require adding cow's milk to the powder. When mixed with water, it was the first complete formula. In 1870, Nestle brought his infant formula to the US. It sold for only $.50 per bottle, still a rather high price for most families. But through marketing, this product was available worldwide, including throughout the whole United States.
I'm sure the Nestle name is familiar to you. If you go to the Nestle website, you find that the company is still very active in helping underdeveloped countries feed their babies.

I decided to use Nestle Infant Food in my story.

I own a 1897 Sears and Roebuck catalog. In that book, there are a number of formulas available for order. And the nursing bottles are quite interesting. There is one shaped like a banana. Others are teardrop shaped clear glass with writing molded into the side. I've chosen to use the teardrop one to fit with the tears over the loss of the mother in my Love Finds You book.

And they even had three different colors of rubber nipples in that catalog.

I love the way that research leads me to so much interesting information.

So as a reader, have you found information in novels that helped you realize how different things were in the era where the book is set?

What are some of your favorite historical novels?

1 comment:

Jillian Kent said...

Hi there, Lena,
Interesting stuff! And to think that Nestle's was good for more than chocolate.:)

Favorite Historicals? So many. But Laura Kinsale's, Flowers from the Storm, Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love, and BJ Hoff's Cloth of Heaven and Ashes and Lace are some of my keepers.