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Research Notes: Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines

card catalog research banner image from Library of Congress for Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series
Featured banner image of card catalog from the 2011 Library of Congress Open House was taken by Ted Eytan and is used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Do you remember the days of card catalogs? Or the days when, if your library did not have the book you wanted, you had to wait weeks—maybe months—for interlibrary loan? (And that was if your library was lucky enough to be a part of a consortium. Many were not.) Even during my college years, I made regular trips to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., because that was the only place I knew I could find what I needed. Since I could not check out the books, I spent a small fortune (and many, many hours) photocopying. I still have their distinctive blue copy card in my wallet.

The point is that “kids these days” are lucky. Do I sound old now? Sorry, not sorry—look at the wealth of sources on the internet! With the hard work of university librarians around the world, plus the search engine know-how of Google and others, you can find rare, out-of-print, and out-of-copyright books in their full-text glory.

Today, I (virtually) paged through an original 1900 copy of Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines to bring you some of the original images that you cannot find anywhere else. For example, you may know that almost every village in the Philippines—no matter how remote or small—had a band of some sort, whether woodwind, brass, or bamboo. In fact, these musicians learned American ragtime songs so quickly and so enthusiastically that many Filipinos thought “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” was the American national anthem. You may know this, but can you visualize it? You don’t have to anymore. Here is an image in color:

Filipino street band 1900 full color image from Harper's Magazine in Gilded Age American colony
Full color image from the Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines, accessed at Google Books.

Smaller bands than the one pictured above played at some of the hottest restaurants in Manila, like the Paris on the famous Escolta thoroughfare. I have seen the Paris’s advertisements in commercial directories, but I had never seen a photo of the interior of it (or really many buildings at all) since flash photography was brand new. Harper’s had a budget, though, so they spared no expense to bring you this image of American expatriate chic:

American expatriate navy officers at Paris restaurant in Manila Philippines in Gilded Age colony
Image from the Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines, accessed at Google Books.

Not every soldier or sailor ate as well as the officers at the Paris. The soldiers on “the Rock” of Corregidor Island, which guards the mouth of Manila Bay, had a more natural setting for their hotel and restaurant:

Corregidor island hotel in Manila Bay during war between Philippines and United States in American colonial period
Image from the Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines, accessed at Google Books.

Another interesting image is of a “flying mess” (or meal in the field). Notice the Chinese laborers in the bottom right hand corner. Despite banning any further Chinese immigration to the Philippines with the renewal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1902, the US government and military regularly employed Chinese laborers who were already in the islands.

American Army soldiers field mess during war between Philippines and United States in Gilded Age
Full color image from the Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines, accessed at Google Books.

But enough politics. It’s almost the weekend, so this relaxing image might be the most appropriate:

American expatriate navy officers at Paris restaurant in Manila Philippines in Gilded Age colony
Image from the Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines, accessed at Google Books.

Want to learn how to find such cool sources yourself? Next weekend, on April 22nd at 1pm, I will give my research workshop, The History Games: Using Real Events to Write the Best Fiction in Any Genre, at the Hingham Public Library, in Hingham, Massachusetts. The hour-long workshop is free, but the library asks that you register because space is limited. Follow the previous library link, if interested. Hope to see you there!

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WIP Research: The Alexandra Trust Dining Rooms


MY WIP largely takes place in the East End, and my research has taken me into surprising directions. Before now, I filtered my view of the East End through Dickens and the Jack the Ripper murders, and perhaps a few snippets from Mayhew from time to time. Needless to say, these were myopic: yes there was squalor, poverty, murder, prostitution, and what not, but there were more vibrant working-class communities than not. And the Victorian and Edwardians were big on charitable institutions! I’ve also been tearing my hair out clump by clump (terrible imagery, isn’t it?) playing research catch-up after I discovered the London County Council and its role in governing the East End.

The most interesting discovery was that of The Alexandra Trust Dining Rooms. Built in 1898 from funds provided by tea magnate and philanthropist Sir Thomas Lipton, “this restaurant offered very cheap meals to the poor working classes. Six boilers could heat 500 gallons of hot soup and a three-course meal cost 4.5d (2p) in 1898. Some 100 waitresses could serve up to 12,000 meals a day.” Arthur H. Beavan’s Imperial London (1901) took a closer look at the charity:

The Alexandra Trust dining rooms © MisterPeter!

The most sensational, as well as the most practical, effort to lessen the cost of daily sustenance to our countless toilers in the East-end, is the “Alexandra Trust.”

In August 1898, the public were surprised by a Gazette announcement to the effect that a petition had been presented to “Her Majesty in Council by Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, the Duke of Norfolk, the Right Honourable Sir Francis Jeune, Sir Francis Knollys, James Knowles, Esq, and Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton, praying for the grant of a Charter of Incorporation to ‘The Alexandra Incorporated Trust,’ for the purpose of providing meals at a cheap rate for poor men and women.”

Sir Thomas Lipton, on being consulted by Her Royal Highness, saw, with the keen insight of the practical man of business, that there was every reason to anticipate that restaurants for the working-classes could be maintained upon the sound lines of honest trade, as much as tenement dwellings or the Rowton Houses, and expressed himself as ready to contribute for her gracious purpose a sum that was originally fixed at £100,000, but which has since been much increased.

The great building in which well-cooked meals are served at a cost below anything previously attempted commercially in London, is close to the important tram and omnibus junction at Old Street, and is in the midst of a crowded population of workers.

The most interesting department of the great scheme is, of course, the kitchens, which, in accordance with the latest ideas, are at the top of the building, on the fourth floor.

It is, naturally, only by working with prodigious quantities that cheap rates can be maintained, but even then, it is a little startling to be told that “those steam-chests for potatoes can cook a ton and a half an hour.”

For boiling operations, there are steam jacketed tanks, deeply fluted, in which in the natural process of expansion in cooking, the contents mark themselves off into the halfpenny portions for sale.

Thirty-two hams can be dressed simultaneously, and the roasting-ovens can contain ten and seven hundredweights respectively of viands at a time.

For soup-making, six vast boilers are provided, with an aggregate capacity of 500 gallons.

In general plan, that of the famous Volkskuche, started by Dr. Kuhn in Vienna, has been followed.

The hungry customer in want of a meal finds in the bill of fare items that start from a halfpenny.

For that sum, a cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa, a bowl of soup or porridge, a slice of bread, with butter, jam, or marmalade, a piece of cake, a portion of pastry, pudding, or vegetables or pickles, may be had.

The penny alone does not seem a much-favoured coin, and a bloater, kipper, or sardines, or mineral waters are the chief items it purchases.

With, however, an additional halfpenny, it allows of a choice of a rasher of bacon, a haddock, two sausages, a buttered tea-cake, a small steak-pudding, a pork-pie, or two boiled eggs.

Cold meat, ham, or large-sized haddock are sold for twopence a plate, and a special feature daily is boiled fish and potatoes for twopence-halfpenny.

Perhaps, however, the triumph of all is the three-course dinner for fourpence-halfpenny.

This consists of soup, a choice at will of a large steak-pudding, roast pork, roast or boiled beef, roast or boiled mutton, Irish stew, boiled pickled pork, stewed steak, or liver and bacon.

It includes two vegetables and bread, and a choice between pastry, or a mug of tea, coffee, or cocoa.

There is a staff of a hundred waitresses, in a neat uniform of black dress and white cap and apron, whose duties are primarily to remove the dirty plates and cups.

Each of the three halls can accommodate 500 people, so that 1500 meals may be simultaneously consumed, and 12,000 meals can be easily provided during the day.

Found in Google Books


I own a ton of Baedeker Handbooks (paid a pretty penny for a few of them) and now I find that they’ve been uploaded to Google Books! Take a trip through Great Britain of 1901, Berlin in 1910, Austria-Hungary before WWI, or the United States, Cuba, and Alaska in 1909.

Travel around the Night Side of London, or discover where to eat in the city with the Gourmet’s Guide to London.

Learn Lina Cavalieri’s secrets of beauty, or how to do your hair, lose weight, and pamper yourself in Beauty Culture: a Practical Handbook.

How about the etiquette of New York society vs that of London?