The Unsinkable Ship Sinks. The Fireproof Building Burns.

Julianne Alcott

I thought it would be interesting to include some time travel in my next science fiction novel. Time travel is fun; I have always enjoyed it in movies like Back to the Future, and TV programs like Quantum Leap and The Voyagers, (which was a science fiction series from the 80s starring the incredibly hunky Jon-Erik Hexum who died so tragically). I didn’t realise what a huge undertaking it would be though.

If I’m doing something like that, I need to make sure I am as historically accurate as possible, so for the last few months, I have been immersed in all things 1912. Pondering the way of life, what the streets smelled like and what food was like. Unfortunately, Googling “life in New York in 1912” doesn’t yield all the answers, so I have been sifting through websites about the history of refuse removal, the changing face of Coca Cola and what meals you could order from your local tea room. Corned Beef Hash seems to have been popular.

1912 was also a year of important things, some of which still impact our lives today.

The Republic of China was established. There was the first parachute jump from an airplane. The doomed Scott expedition reached the South Pole, and Roald Amundsen made the announcement that he had found it first.

Close to home, the ANC was founded.

For baseball fans (and for any of us lovers of Rom Coms who saw Drew Barrymore in Perfect Catch/Fever Pitch), 1912 was the opening of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.

Paramount Pictures was started then. They have definitely made an impression on us with movies such as Grease, Indiana Jones, Crocodile Dundee, Ghost, Forrest Gump, Mission Impossible, Titanic, Ironman, Kung Fu Panda and my favourite fantasy movie Stardust.ogaaaisfgugibpi3bf5y9kg-1

The use of plastic was started by General Electric, and the Oreo cookie was invented. George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion which later became My Fair Lady. Coca Cola could only be bought in a bottle, which was straight up and down, and not the distinctive curved shape it is now.times-square

I also studied the changing face of New York. Times Square is just mind-blowing, from elegant beginnings to a nightmare place for people with a phobia for bright lights!

The Waldorf- Astoria is credited with being the first hotel in the USA to offer room service, and the home of the Waldorf salad, but it too was demolished to make way for the Empire State Building.

Of course, almost everyone knows about one of the most infamous tragedies in world history; that of the sinking of the Titanic. The ship that was spok120405051718-titanic-ship-cobh-horizontal-galleryen of as “unsinkable” did indeed sink, but not many people know about the story of the Equitable Life Building. It was New York’s first skyscraper (7 storeys). It was said to be a fireproof building, but one day, a worker threw a lit match into a waste paper basket after lighting a cigarette, and the whole building caught alight.x2010_11_09141-copy-wurts

Buildings catch on fire all the time, but not in the spectacular way this one did. The weather conditions were freakishly cold, freezing the water from the firemen’s hoses in streams all down the building. Fire fighters had to have ice chipped off them because they couldn’t move. It must have been a truly bizarre sight to see the fireproof building burning under a cascade of ice!

I learned so much about that fascinating year, and even though it was hard work, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I hope it will give my new novel an authentic ring…

Picture credits:

Times Square 1912 http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=250730&page=54
Times Square modern http://blog.travefy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/times-square.jpg
http://mcnyblog.org/2012/01/10/100-years-ago-the-equitable-building-fire-2/
http://edition.cnn.com/2012/04/06/travel/titanic-cruise-travel/

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2 thoughts on “The Unsinkable Ship Sinks. The Fireproof Building Burns.

  1. jacky says:

    You’ve really got me thinking Julianne; a fascinating blog and I’m about to embark on a 1912 recce, deep into the past. The tv series Trashopolis might turn over a few gems?? best of luck with your novel.

  2. Susan says:

    Great research, Julianne! It’s amazing what turns up once you start, isn’t it? Sometimes I get so carried away with research for something specific that I find something even more interesting and use that instead. Good luck with your novel.

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