An Invitation

How did Victorian ladies redden their lips without Revlon? How did beauties ban body odor until Ban came along? Perk up limp hair before Pert? Wander with me through pop culture of the Gilded Age and find out. (See sidebar on the left below the links bar.)

The Nineteenth Century--delightful, bustling, contradictory, scary--much like the world today. I yearn to learn everything I can about the United States in the 1800s--not things political--things personal. I have read and annotated over a thousand books and articles about the period. I'm especially delighted and appalled by everyday life then. However absurd some of the customs and beliefs may seem, I did not make them up. I create characters and plot--that’s why we call novels "fiction." But the details of life in my Victorian mysteries are legit.


Victorian Cities

St. Louis stood at the epicenter of the restless energy of the times--for both good and evil. Progress and impoverishment in heady measures lived side by side on these mean--but soon to be paved--streets. Take a peek into everyday life among the energetic and influential “new” middle class. Their verve and optimism propelled St. Louis to national prominence as host to the Republican National Convention of 1896. Our 610,000 residents took great pride in the fact that St. Louis was the fourth largest city in the country--even if they had to "fudge" the figures.

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“The Book of Life begins with a man and a woman in a Garden.

It ends with Revelations.”

-Oscar Wilde in A Woman of No Importance


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Fedora as Auntie Dee


  • Geranium petals
  • Lavender oil in the bath
  • Vinegar rinse


Spinning Back the Years...

Be warned that just as we take for granted the truth of the world as we know it, so did our ancestors. But their “truth” was very different from our own. They saw life colored by the attitudes, superstitions, expectations and beliefs that framed their world--how could we expect anything else?

In this world, for well-to-do city folks electric lights were just beginning to replace gas jets--which had only twenty years earlier replaced candles and kerosene lamps. Coal soot so blackened the air, St. Louisans had to use artificial light at high noon even on a sunny day. Local streets were flowing or rutted mud for three-fourths of every year.

Shopgirls made 6 cents an hour. Trousers were called “unwhisperables.”

Victorian House


...To a Simpler Time?

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek Michigan invented cornflakes in 1896 because he believed a bland diet would reduce unhealthy sexual desire. Candy makers used arsenic to color their confections green. Morphine was the key ingredient used to calm tots in Winslow's Baby Syrup and Kopp's Baby Friend.

Laws in 1880 proclaimed twelve the age of consent for matrimony for females--fifteen for males.

St. Louis teems with secrets. I find them in the brick streets on the landing, the mansions of the West End, the steps of the Old Courthouse, the caves which honeycomb the south side, even the muddy water which is the heartland’s lifeblood, the Mississippi River.

Let me share them with you