Sure, sure, Google does yeoman’s service for the hard-pressed fiction writer, but if a few minutes of banging around on the internet won’t get me to the factoid I need, it’s time to get smart and . . . use a library! Ask a professional. The results are magical. For information on Cleveland, the setting of my novel, I turn to the Western Reserve Historical Society and for almost everything else, from treatments of the mentally ill in 1910 (maybe you don’t want to know) to yesterday’s question, normal speed limits in 1910, I accost my friend Melissa, reference wizard of the Knoxville Public Library.
I got my answer: speed limits, when posted, were 10 mph. in cities (lots of horses on the road) and 20-25 mp. in the country. But as the July 2, 1910 Harper’s Weekly article which Melissa found for me warns, tooling along in the 1910’s had its problems: “Legally there is a speed limit of twenty miles an hour in the country districts; but actually there is no limit with the motor-car, once the driver gets away from the cross-roads so dear to the heart of the country constable, ever on the alert for his emolument. In the open country there are no restrictions upon speed except those that the automobilist places upon himself.” . . .[However] “It is awkward to come upon any of these [pedestrians, animals, other vehicles] unawares at twenty-five miles an hour on a narrow country road flanked by ditches, small trees, or banks impossible to drive over.” . . . “To negotiate successfully such a curve at more than twelve miles an hour calls for quick judgment and a good hand at the steering-wheel….”
Moral . . . If you love to write, love your library.