A Wealth of Information in Old Newspapers
Not Just Useful For Lining Drawers
One Upon A Old Fashioned Font...
Have you ever taken some time to browse through old-timey newspapers? Not only is the flowery and effusive style of writing a delight to discover, and the completely un-PC and very open references to slavery and stupid or ugly people (these topics are seldom related; it seems that anyone and everyone was open slather for olden days newspaper writers and editors) often very shocking, but there is a wealth of information to be discovered within their pages.
Stuck on a plot idea or plot twist? Not a problem. There are stories you could never have imagined available for the taking and a quick peruse (though if you're anything like me you'll be too enthralled in what you are reading for the peruse to be quick at all) can set you on your way to several pages or chapters of interesting writing.
Madams, Snake Oil Salesmen, or Gamblers, Anyone?
Old time newspapers have it all and what you might chance upon leaves today's world seeming very staid. You may find scandalous reports of the local doctor absconding with his 18-year-old niece whilst his wife is visiting family in another state; or read of a Madam who has opened yet another bordello and is having to turn long lines of eager clients away; or scan a paragraph which alludes deliciously to the circus owner who has gambled away his employees wages and is now on the run, last seen heading for the docks. (All of the above were actual snippets I found in old newspapers).
Even the advertisements are enticing. Why not buy a bottle of tincture guaranteed to prevent the sin of "self-abusive" (though it makes no mention of where the lotion should be applied)? How about some ladies' undergarments, several pairs for a nickel, freshly imported from Europe? Or perhaps you'd prefer a re-fitted wagon, nicely primed and ready for harnessing your horses to before you move your family across several states?
May The Source Be With You
So where do you start? How can you get your ink-stained fingers on these delectable delights? Google is always a great place to begin and they do in fact have an old newspaper archive. Check out Google News Archives to begin your fascinating journey.
Don't limit your search to newspapers in just one country. Pioneers were pioneers the world over and every country had its share of interesting (and naughty) citizens. Papers Past gives an intriguing insight into the early days of settlement in New Zealand.
And don't forget Chronicling America for newspapers from nearly every state, reaching back a couple of centuries.
Happy reading! And I'll look forward to reading your novel when it's published (if you can find time to write amidst all that reading, that is).