Pencil Shavings: Research Crumbs

Welcome to the new page, Pencil Shavings: Research Crumbs. I’ll be throwing up little crumbs of research on various topics that I’m working on. Consider this the behind the curtain process before you see the finished product.

Vampires…The Casket Girls

Setting, time, and place are very important when one writes a story of any kind. Photos, art work, newspaper articles, obituaries, and objects are helpful to tie the story together for both the writer as reference material, and the reader to keep them in the world the writer creates.

As an editor, it’s my job to do that research and make sure the object you want to place in the manuscript existed in the time period so you don’t pull the reader out of the world.

Some background (also research I had to do) for Vampires…The Casket Girls manuscript I am currently working on. A casquette girl is the story of fille à la cassette, but also known historically as a casket girl or a Pelican girl, who was a woman brought from France to the French colonies of Louisiana to marry. The name derives from the small chests, known as casquettes, in which they carried their clothes. The French policy of sending young women orphans known as King’s Daughters (filles du roi) to their colonies for marriage custom goes back to the 17th-century. 

The casquette girls, however, were conspicuous by reason of their virtue. They were recruited from church charitable institutions (usually orphanages and convents) and although poor, were guaranteed to be virgins. It later became a matter of pride in Louisiana to show descent from them. The first casquette girls reached Mobile, Alabama in 1704, Biloxi, Mississippi in 1719, and New Orleans in 1728.

Casket Image courtesy of New York Historical Society Museum & Library

This 17th century chest, on display at the New York Historical Society Museum & Library in New York City, is the perfect visual since it has provenance [Courtesy of the Canadian Museum of History], and the Museum has a page dedicated to information on it so it is a valid primary source.

“The Casket Girls got their name from trunks like this one, which they used to transport their belonging to the Louisiana colony. At 9½” high x 22½” long x 10” wide, these trunks did not give the women much room to pack everything they would need to start a new life.”