Author Topic: How to go about researching a character?  (Read 3054 times)

Offline DocDillinger

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How to go about researching a character?
« on: May 03, 2017, 12:44:04 PM »
Howdy Y'all

I am a newbie, and as newbies be, we got questions, plenty of them, some of them good, some of them not so much. I've been researching the sport for sometime, and as far as the firearms are concerned, I have a god idea of what I'm looking at, it's just a matter of saving up for them. The aspect that I'm having some issues on falls with the clothing, leather and accessories. I love dressing well, and love that CAS is a costuming sport, but I am wondering just how does one go about researching their persona, or would it be better to ask just how accurate does your persona need to be to the historical figure which you wish to emulate? For example, I personally prefer blued handguns, and Holliday carried nickel plated, would anyone take offense if I used blued guns for his character? As far as the other details on Doc's guns, I'm trying to find out what caliber he shot. I can find the details on the lightening as a 38, and the thunderer as a 41, but have yet to find a source on his Colt Quickdraw. Would I be wrong in assuming that it would be a 45?

 As for myself, I love Doc Holliday, you can thank/blame Val Kilmer in Tombstone for that. I have found a fashion blog which breaks down his style quite well, and even pinpoints how to try and get the look, which is fairly simple, but I noticed something in the photos which I didn't notice in the films: He only used one holster! Either the cross body shoulder mount for his Colt Quickdraw during the beginning of the movie, and then shifting to a cross draw belt holster. However, when it comes to the 1877 Lightening (or Cimarron Thunderer nowadays) he has it tucked into a vest pocket. No holster. Something tells me that this would not be permitted in CAS, and I was wondering what options y'all would suggest to be both accurate as well as safe/legal to the rules of the sport?

What other details should I take into consideration while researching a character?


Offline St. George

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Re: How to go about researching a character?
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2017, 02:05:06 PM »
I wrote this up some time ago.

It's an illustration of how I created 'my' Impression using my experiences and those of my forebears.

Picking a historic persona is much the same, and there's a lot on Holliday, the actual individual - not so much on Val Kilmer...

What 'makes' your Impression are the small details - as shown in the note on the 'cowboy' - so be patient and take your time.

Also - go to the 'Historical Society' and 'NCOWS' forums for even more.


St. George's Notes XIII - The Impression(2.0)...
« on: February 02, 2005, 10:06:13 AM »     

Creating your persona is important to an accurate portrayal of the times and a good way to honor those in your family who went before.

It also allows you to concentrate and learn about specifics, and can save you some money as you put your Impression together properly - leaving frivolous purchases for later on.

I was lucky in having some interesting ancestors to draw from, as my forebears actually were soldiers, gamblers, gunfighters and lawmen - with nary a storekeeper in the lot.

My GG Grandfather rode with the 2d Iowa Volunteer Cavalry as a Corporal.
My GG Uncle rode with DeBray's 5th Independent Texas Cavalry as a Captain.
My G Uncle rode with G Troop - 1st Volunteer Cavalry (yeah - 'that' G Troop - TR's).

My own career has been spent in Combat Arms units - Airborne and Special Ops mostly - I commanded a Cavalry Squadron for The First Team, after I commanded an Infantry Battalion in The Big Red One - having first started out as a Rifleman and later - a Hard-Stripe E6 in a Paratroop outfit about 35 years ago.
I was retiring out of SOCOM when recalled...

Here's a thumbnail sketch - from the top of my head - and it hits the high points - allowing you to build upon it - fleshing out the Posts and the towns nearby - even the Saloons and the Dry Goods and Saddlers.


Because to make it more authentic - some of your equipment is going to have come from them.

For example - my saddle-shaped watch fob is from J.H.Haney & Company - a noted saddler from Omaha and first active in 1888, while my cigar case and a pocket knife both come from Union Stock Yards Company/South Omaha - that started in 1884.
These were places I'd have done business with or known men who did.

Retired, long-serving Cavalry Officer...

Served since the Civil War, when I rode with the 2d Iowa Volunteer Cavalry as a Trooper, in Sheridan's Cavalry Corps, from 1863 on.
Rode under Grierson, cutting telegraph and railroad lines near Vicksburg.
Brevetted to Major.
Chased Forrest, helped repel Hood in Tennessee.
Stayed in after the War and went West (with a company-grade rank) and fought throughout the Indian Wars - Apache, Comanche, Cheyenne, Ute and Nez Perce' Campaigns - rode with and later commanded a squadron in the 5th Cavalry.
Entered the Retired List out of the Headquarters for the Department of the Platte, at Omaha Barracks, where I served on Departmental Staff - in 1896 as Lieutenant Colonel, Cavalry.

Now, that's 'my' Impression.

Yours may vary widely - especially if you don't have a Military background and have picked another type of character to portray.

For example:

Let's say that you pick a Working Cowboy...

What you'd have in your pockets or in your vest would depend upon what your character would have and his station in life.

You may have to decide how educated you might be - you may not be able to read, write, or do sums.
If you can - you might want to carry a pencil and maybe a Tally Book, so you can keep track of stock and such for the Brand you're riding for this season.

The pencil would not have an eraser - you'd 'erase' with a knife blade - or cross through.

No pen, though, as the technology hadn't quite made it to that stage.
Pen and ink were found in desks.

You'd probably want some education though, and might have a McGuffy's Primer in your saddlebags - that you've gotten from the new Schoolmarm...

If you've been paid, some 'hard' cash - coinage in the form of both American and most likely Mexican would be in your pockets - paper wasn't quite as trusted back then, but greenbacks and shinplasters were also common, as was Army Scrip.
You may not have much money - since your pay goes to keeping up you - your outfit, and once in awhile - paying off your bunkhouse poker debts.

There might be a Bill of Sale for your horse - stuck inside your billfold (a simple fold-over thin leather case - similar in construction to a modern checkbook cover).

You wouldn't need a Pocket Watch - since you could tell time fairly accurately by the Sun.
Anyway - maybe the Ramrod would have one - maybe not - but if he did, it'd be a solid one - most likely a Turnip" - because they were pretty strongly-built -the more expensive having the closable "Hunter Case" and the less expensive the open face.
But then, not every man would own one - they could be pricey for a working cowboy and weren't as tough as needed, and besides, there was usually the one that the Ramrod had.

If you're using a pocket watch, then there were watch fobs and charms as well as watch chains - the fobs being anything from an Elk's Tooth to an advertising fob from a harness maker to a spent Minie' bullet that glanced off your cartridge box at Shiloh, and you kept for Good Luck
If you carried such a thing - a Watch Fob from a local business on a strap would be appropriate.

A carbon-steel-bladed pocket knife might be in order - wood or bone handles being quite common and any of the good English makers (some German as well) were common - I*XL being well thought of.
It would probably be a single-bladed knife, though two-bladed pen knives were quite common and they got that name because they were small enough to cut quills for writing.
A hoof knife was a large knife - it being the Multiplier of the day, so it would be found in the saddlebags

Let's say you were good at your job...

You'd want to show that fact off a bit - so your spurs would be top-notch as would your saddle.
Maybe a pair of Buermann's Gal-Leg spurs - or later on,  McChesneys - or - of you're in the Southwest - a good pair of Mexican-made ones from the big Trade Fairs in Chihuahua - with jingle-bobs, so the 'town folk' would know you're comin', with your straps let out to the 'town hole' to add to the music.
The saddle - well - that's going to take some money - but once you've got a good one - it'll advertise to one and all that they're looking at a "Top Hand"...

You'll carry Tobacco - in one or more of its many forms - as most men of the time used it.
If that's the case - you'll want a Match Safe for your "Strike-Anywhere" Lucifers and your little bag of makin's - Bull Durham - or some of that black Mexican tobacco -  and some papers(non-adhesive) or cut and scraped corn shucks - so's you could roll a smoke.
They didn't call 'em "quirlys" for nothing.
Maybe a plug of chaw will be in a vest pocket as well - or cigars.
Perhaps a pipe as well - because tobacco could still be smoked if no papers or cornshucks were available
Snuff came loose back then and was carried in small horn boxes with lids - some silver-mounted and engraved.

And - if you're just a Button - maybe a couple of Peppermints, since you're not quite used to smoking, yet.
And even if you're not a Button - you'd still have a sweet tooth... and might have a pair of reading glasses inside your vest

There may even be a small flask inside a vest pocket - especially for a gambler - or a 'sport' - and even a deck of pasteboards.

You can see how the creation of an historically accurate Impression can involve a bit of thought - but once given - and with some access to decent references - it's easy to create what you're after.

The list goes on - again depending on your character - and quality varies.

A working cowboy never had much money, but when he could, he'd buy what would give the most value for his dollar, and that thing may not be the prettiest in the hardware or drygoods store - just the most durable.
A townsman would have more opportunity to buy "the latest thing" and so on.
A big part of the overall enjoyment of NCOWS is the peripheral history

Good Luck.

Scouts Out!
"It Wasn't Cowboys and Ponies - It Was Horses and Men.
It Wasn't Schoolboys and Ladies - It Was Cowtowns and Sin..."

Offline Ben Beam

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Re: How to go about researching a character?
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2017, 06:19:56 PM »
I'd say you have two choices: Val Kilmer's character in Tombstone, or the real Doc Holliday. But the good news is that you're not stuck with what you chose. Maybe right now you're Val Kilmer, and then when you get more into it you decide to go for realism. Of course if you decide you want to be in NCOWS then it does start to matter, as they strive for realism as much as possible.

Everyone will say it, but try not to get carried away spending money on accoutrements, as once you've been into it awhile you may find you've got half of them wrong. You'll buy a fancy cowboy hat and then realize it isn't appropriate to the period, or get a pair of boots and then decide you want to do B Western and can't use 'em.

If you really want to get into it, read anything by Delmonico or Scout—those guys know their stuff and have been around a long while (on the forums that is). Not to say no one else knows anything, but it seems whenever I'm researching anything I end up reading their posts. Also find books with lots of pictures. The Images of America series covers pretty much every time period and locale, and they're chock full of great photos.

Since you've chosen a historic character, you'll have plenty of information available. Good luck, and have fun!

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