© 2018 by Whiskey Emerson

West of Hell - Links to Related Articles

A brief overview of New York around 1875

For a tad more clarity on what was happening in New York around 1876, which is when West of Hell begins, I found this short but sweet little gem that adds a little background to a few of the points Mary's perspective makes in the Preface. 

Just who exactly was Richard Croker?

A villain emerges from the darkness of New York City's sewers as Mary's captor...but one of the great things about this villain is that he was a very real person. Richard Croker, one of the greatest Grand Sachems of Tammany Hall, was an intriguing and unsettling person to research. This article does a great job pinpointing a lot of what made him such an infamous character throughout his political career, and also give you a hint of what to expect from him as the book progresses.

The Civil War Era Griswold Revolver

For a little more information and history behind the rare revolver Thomas discovers in the Madame's safe, take a read to learn more! Also, with a quick search on google, you can find hundreds of photos of this gun and numerous replica models. I own a replica myself - they are incredible and, surprisingly, quite heavy.

Casper's Whiskey - The Madame's Favorite Drink

Whiskey. You either love it or you don't, and in the Madame's case, she can't really go a day without it. These bottles are now considered a collector's item, and this became one of the most sought after brands in the later 19th century. 

The Horror's of the New York City Draft Riots

In 1863, we were in the middle of the Civil War when the lottery draft was insituted in New York City. The United States was hanging by a thread, and this lottery was formed for the majority of able-bodied men to be called to the front lines. Unfortunately, after announcing an unrealistic sum of $300 could buy a man out of the draft, utter chaos ensued, and the rioters targeted both Upper Class and African Americans at any given opportunity. The majority of rioters were considered Middle Class - most of the Lower Classes actually refrained from joining the violence. As Thomas mentions in reflection, it was one of the worst memories of his childhood.

Murderer's Alley - The Five Points

Through various television shows and films, many of us have beheld depictions of The Five Points. The treacherous and vile living conditions were survived by those who learned to live without morality and had little regard for anyone other than themselves. But how did this horrific place come to be? For more information on the back story of The Five Points, check out this article, which details how due to various elements of the time, this notorious neighborhood became one of the most feared in New York City.

Betsy Thoughtless

How did young girls learn what was proper in the 19th century? In most circumstances, it was through stories of other women who had suffered the consequences of unsuitable conduct. The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless is one of many novels to highlight 'what not to do' through a young girl's experiences and friendships during her teenage years. I added here a quick synopsis - I have read the book myself, and if you are one to enjoy reading women's literature from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, I would highly recommend it. It is no Evelina; however, it is extremely entertaining.

Irish Immigrants and the Workplace

The influx of Irish immigrants to the United States throughout the 19th century was incredible. Much of that push was catalyzed by the Potato Famine, or the Great Famine, which took place between 1845 and 1852, and in the majority of cases early on, these immigrants were not welcomed with open arms. If they didn't find themselves in a gang or signing up to fight in the Civil War, what direction did they choose? This article highlights the pay and work of Irish immigrants, chiefly to emphasize the tough time migrants had finding decent wages.

John Kelly - The Reformer of Tammany Hall

Another player for Tammany Hall is introduced, and like Richard Croker, he too was a real person. In the wake of the Orange Riot of 1871, William Tweed was on the outs as Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall. He was eventually imprisoned and died (we'll get to more on Mr. Tweed later). John Kelly came into the picture shortly after William Tweed, with a public outcry for the Hall to be reformed from the inside out. Known known to many as Honest John, Kelly worked hard to rebuild the Tammany Hall name. Here is an article for more on the rise of John Kelly.

The Whore Houses of New York City

Here I found a lovely little article about the 'unmentionable' places men weren't supposed to frequent in New York City, though let's be honest, we all know they went quite a lot. Focusing on The Gentlemen's Directory​, a guide to the underground world of pleasure during the 19th century, explore the forbidden world of brothels and how men communicated which were better than others. The Palace, if it were a real institution, would be on the top of the recommendations list.

The White Star Line

Now, normally I will say I am very 'anti-wikipedia' only because I want to get the most authentic information I can find. However, in this special circumstance, the wikipedia article on the history of the White Star Line transportation company is pretty great, and far better than anything else I've found. You might know White Star Line from Titanic, which was in fact a White Star Line ship, but for a little more background on how crossing the Atlantic changed with the introduction of the steam boat, give this web page a read!

P & O - A Steam Navigation Company

You'd think the simple name P & O might be made up (Turner S & D is, in case you hadn't figured that out quite yet). I assure you it is not - this company was a major player in international shipping. 

Originally they were operators of mail, passenger and cargo services between the UK, Spain and Portugal, Egypt, India, the Far East and Australia.  Later, P & O became a world-wide group of diversified shipping companies, and land based operations in port development, road haulage, construction, property and varied service industries. Here's a brief look at their enterprise.

Nellie Bly - A Badass Pioneer in the Field of Journalism

This reporter, a woman ahead of her time and one demonstrated immense courage, revolutionized the role of women in journalism. Shortly after moving to New York, Nellie Bly joined the offices of Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper, The New York World. There, she proposed and then took an undercover assignment for which she feigned insanity to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island. This link is to her article and then published work, Ten Days in a Mad-House, which was instrumental in helping me envision Mary's perspective in the asylum. At the very least, it is horrifying, and I do my best within Chapter V to highlight just how brutal Blackwell's Island was during the late 19th century.

The New York Press versus Blackwell

Nellie Bly wasn't the only one who went after the cruelty of Blackwell's Island. In this case her article was more of 'the straw that broke the camels back.' For decades, Blackwell was a place of abuse, wrongful incarceration, and in certain circumstances, torture. And while Nellie Bly's article brought about reformation, asylums continued to be seen as a condemnation. Blackwell closed in 1894, and very little remains of what it once was.

Another Look at Blackwell and Lunacy

In case you need a little more reading on the 'Horrors' of Blackwell's Island, here you go. The point I am trying to get across is that while many of you may read the chapter and think I am exaggerating for entertainment purposes, I assure you that is not the case. Everything that happens to Mary in this chapter has been documented as practiced behavior on Blackwell's Island by the asylum staff. It's scary to think that only one hundred and fifty years ago, if someone thought you were relatively crazy and happen to call the police, the probability of you being locked away in a place like Blackwell for the rest of your life was extremely high.

The Meaning of Apprenticeship

The history of apprenticeship dates back hundreds of years, and in certain professions still exists today. During the later nineteenth century and through the industrial revolution, many aspects of this teacher-student relationship changed, particularly due to the emergence of factories. In Thomas's case, his apprenticeship with his Master, Lawrence, is one that wasn't as affected as others - being a blacksmith required a skill set that couldn't be replaced by machines. This article gives a bit of background on apprenticeships and how throughout the centuries, this type of work has transformed to fit the times. 

How Fires Changed New York City

As I mention in Chapter VI, fires were a commonality in New York City, especially in the immigrant neighborhoods and ghettos where building codes weren't exactly up to par. One of the biggest problems? The poor could really only afford wooden structures, and because of that, if one building caught fire it typically took out an entire block. This article gives some insight into the numerous ways people began to try and combat fire risk throughout the later nineteenth century and into the twentieth. 

Horse-Drawn Transportation of the 19th Century

Have you ever heard the mention of a 'Barouche' or "Phaeton' while watching your favorite British 19th century film and thought, ummm, is that some kind of pastry? Well, finally at last you can understand just what these wealthy British aristocrats are referencing in regards to their transportation methods. To most of us, we simply call every form of these vehicles carriages, and if our British predecessors ever heard us doing so, they would scowl at us with disdain. Some of these horse and carriage methods were used for sport as well, and if you remember from Chapter IV, this is unfortunately how Edward's brother, Arthur, and Arthur's family died tragically.

The English Country House

Amberleigh, the Turner's country estate and main house, was imagined in accordance with the longstanding tradition of English Country Houses amongst the wealthier Brits throughout history. Some of these mansions/residences/homes were so unbelievably beautiful, and their property so vast and awesome, it's no wonder there were continual cultural and social clashes amongst the poor and rich. This article, gloriously put together by wikipedia, provides great much insight into this topic, as well as provides detailed information about the decline of their use starting in the 1870s - 1880s. Also, if you ever just want your jaw to drop, google the Lake District of England. You won't be disappointed. Dream big.

So, What Exactly Is a Samurai?

We've studied them in school, heard their legends, and witnessed Tom Cruise transform into one (The Last Samurai - great film, though not so fantastic on the historical accuracy).  But who are these mysterious warriors from Japan's feudal past, and why is it that in spite of the fact that they are no longer in power, they are referred to typically with a great sense of awe, honor, and respect? In this particular article (I apologize again, I know everyone hates the whole wikipedia thing, but they freaking NAIL this), you get everything you could possibly want to learn, and discover how their sacred doctrine and culture continue to live on.

Also, if you do have the time and want to truly learn about Samurai, I also recommend the novel Shogun by James Clavell. It is very well done, and one of my all time favorites. 

The Decline of the Samurai Warrior

Everything comes to an end, and for the Samurai, it was a combination of industrialization, politics, westernization, and corruption amongst their own. Like we hear from Edward regarding Hiroaki, many of the Samurai did begin to abuse their power, and with the world growing smaller and changing faster than most could keep up, it wasn't long before these warriors were considered obsolete amongst heavy artillery. This article will give you a little insight as to the monumental external factors that drove out the Samurai, and also changed Japan from being relatively isolated to a contender on the world stage.

Gender Roles in the 19th Century

This article might also be called: Why, aside from modern medicine, a woman ought to be happier living now than in the 19th century. There are THOUSANDS of articles online and hundreds upon hundreds of books written on this subject (if you need suggestions, as always, email me). But if you want a small overview of the type of moral code women were forced to live by in middle and upper class society, here you go. It's no Jane Austen novel - it's a lot more Wuthering Heights with a lot less Heathcliffe. So take a gander for a bit more background info on the types of shackles women were forced to endure in their lives before (and after) the surge of Suffrage began.

The Modern Woman and the Gilded Age

When the Gilded Age commenced, it roughly coincided with the middle portion of the Victorian era in Britain and the Belle Époque in France. For women, it was the beginning of social movements to push for our right to vote, equality (we're still fighting this one 150 years later), employment, and standard human rights. However, what is so fascinating about this time period is that while many remained adamant that having women in the public sphere was an outrage, others became fascinated by the idea of a woman carrying a small amount of independence, though when it came to marriage and home life she was still expected to abide by her father or husband's wishes. It was a paradox, and hence one of the numerous reasons why Mark Twain pegged this time period "The Gilded Age" in the first place: it was a satire based on an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding.

Bronson Howard

Bronson Howard, a very well-known American dramatist, was a journalist turned playwright whose fame rose from the late 1870's to early 1890's. His first important play was Saratoga, produced by Augustin Daly in 1870. It was very successful and became the first of a long series of pieces which gave Mr. Howard a foremost position amongst the theater community. The play I am referring to within West of Hell is in fact Young Mrs. Winthrop, and though it was said to have had it's final performance at the Madison Square Theater in April of 1883, I've extended it to May for the due diligence of the story. This NYT article on his work as a playwright is absolutely fantastic, and I hope you enjoy it.

Madison Square Theater

The Madison Square Theater was a New York City landmark up until it's demolition in 1908. This article provides an interesting background on the theater and it's history, as it was said to have been revolutionary in terms of stage technology and theater design, and also lead the way with theatrical touring equipment and management. It was a centerpiece of culture in the Lower East Side until the theater district was moved north up to the area around 42nd Street and Times Square, which still today is the home of the majority of Broadway plays.


After the Civil War of the United States, the South was a disaster. Plantations and other lands throughout the Southern United States were seized by the federal government and thousands of freed Black slaves known as freedmen, found themselves free, yet without means to support their families. Then, in the summer of 1865, President Andrew Johnson, as one of the first acts of Reconstruction, ordered all land under federal control be returned to its previous owners. This meant that plantation and land owners in the South regained their land but lacked a labor force. The solution was to use Sharecropping. It would allow the government to match labor with demand and begin the process of economically rebuilding the nation via labor contracts. This article goes into the realities of Sharecropping, and the sometimes devastating effects it had on the freedmen and their families, forcing many of them more or less back into slave-like labor conditions.

The Consequences of Emancipation

In a follow up to the above article regarding Sharecropping in the South, this piece put together by The Guardian explores the devastating effects freedom had on the African American community in the south. The Civil War laid waste to the southern states, and also left many freedmen without the opportunity to find work and be compensated for it. Therefore, families starved, disease spread, and many died after only just having their prayers answered. Aside from Sharecropping, many tried to join the army, the railroad force, anything with a paying wage despite maltreatment, though it would be decades before freedom felt more like a reality.

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