A Couple Shares Their Experience of Living Like Victorians for 10 Years, and It’s More Fascinating Than We Thought
If there were a way to travel back in time, we’d most likely go from one era to another, wearing ancient Roman clothes on Fridays to rocking spacesuits on Saturdays. But Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman decided not to wait for the time-travel machine to be invented and went into the past on their own. For the past 10 years, they’ve been living in the 19th century, having recreated life as it was during that time.
Ladies and gentlemen, Bright Side presents the family that lives in Victorian times and we want to tell you all about their fascinating lifestyle.
Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman have an unusual way of researching historical times: they dove into the 19th century, more specifically, the period from 1880 to 1890. This was the time when humanity made a huge step forward in technology. It’s when electric bulbs, telephones, and cars appeared onto the scene.
In 2000, they were a regular couple and looked no different than anyone else. But huge changes were coming their way.
The couple was always charmed with the “vintage times” and one day, Gabriel presented Sarah with a corset for her birthday. It was almost exactly the same kind that women wore back in the 19th century.
Just one year later, they bought an old house that was built in 1888 in Port Townsend, Washington. This was the beginning of their slow transition into the life of the past.
When they moved in, there was a refrigerator in the kitchen but Sarah and Gabriel replaced it with a box of ice. There is electricity in their house but they use electric bulbs from the past — exactly the way Edison designed them. In the evening, they use oil lamps and during the cold time of the year, they use kerosene and gas heaters.
The couple doesn’t have any cell phones, Sarah doesn’t have a driver’s license, and they travel only by bicycle. Sarah rides a 3-wheel replica from the 1880s, and Gabriel has 3 2-wheel retro bicycles.
The spouses decided to give up using microwave ovens, dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers and decided to do everything by hand. Every birthday, they present each other with some antique items and they sew their clothes by themselves, copying the originals. Sarah wears her corsets every day, and all Gabriel’s glasses and spectacles are real ones made in the 19th century.
Sarah wears an old chatelaine on her waist — an accessory that looks like a chain for carrying different useful things like a small notebook, a pillow for pins, scissors, a box for coins, a thimble, a box of matches, and tweezers. Sarah washes herself using a bowl and a brush for her hair that is 130 years old.
Sarah and Gabriel cook on a wood-fire oven and use a kerosene lamp, a cast-iron waffle maker, a manual meat mincer, a whisk for eggs, and other very old things.
Of course, they use old food recipes, too. Sarah gets them from 19th-century cookbooks. She even bakes bread herself. The family collects antique dishes as well.
The antique bed the couple purchased didn’t have a mattress so Sarah sewed it herself and filled it with feathers.
In their free time, the spouses walk and read. Gabriel is an ex-archivist and librarian (now he works at a bicycle shop) and Sarah is a writer. Reading is their favorite pastime and they spend a lot of time studying books and magazines that were written back in the 19th century to get the feel of that time even more.
The literature collection helps Sarah with her work. She writes books: both about popular things (like the fashion, etiquette, and morals of that time) and novels about the Victorian era. Sarah’s books are full of fun facts about that time. For example, in True Ladies and Proper Gentlemen, she talks about the lace that was extremely expensive and that came with a huge tax. One popular method among women smugglers was to wrap many yards of lace around their legs underneath their skirts.
Every morning, Sarah winds the mechanical clock in the living room and writes with an old fountain pen that she has to fill with ink every time. The writer says that living in Victorian style allows her to make her book more historically accurate. For example, wearing antique clothes every day gives her an understanding of the details that were both too intimate and too casual to talk about back then. This way, she can describe them more accurately in her books.
Of course, the modern world has different rules and they have to follow some of them. Editors don’t accept manuscripts written by had, so Sarah uses a computer to type them up. She also has a Facebook page. She uses it to talk about her books and fun facts about the Victorian era.
The couple also works as consultants for writers, directors, producers, and radio hosts. They also give lectures and educational tours.
The spouses are often criticized for having adopted only the outside aspects of the Victorian times. There is nothing appealing about this cruel time: the materials used to make beautiful dresses for girls and tires for bicycles were actually produced by poor people from the British colonies. Women didn’t have the right to vote, and thousands of people died from TB and typhoid. But the Chrisman family also has many fans who are charmed with how bold their lifestyle is.
Sarah and Gabriel say that their goal is not to perfectly recreate the past. They know that it is an impossible task. They are actors, they are not pretending to be someone they are not. They are only trying to be who they are and do what they love. The way they live is a perfect illustration of freedom of choice.
If you could choose a historical period to live in, which one would you choose? Explain your answer down in the comments!