Victorian Era-Obsessed Couple Lives Like It s Still the 1880s


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Perhaps you’ve toured a pioneer village, gone to a medieval fair, or watched a Civil War reenactment, marveling at how people survived and throve in those days of yore. But at the end of the day, you likely fully realized that the actors involved in these living history demonstrations put down their muskets and butter churns and take up their smartphones, smoothly sliding back into the modern century.

Victorian Era-Obsessed Couple Lives Like It   s Still the 1880s

Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman are not those people.

The couple are, in their own words, “engaged in a long-term experiential study of culture and technologies of the late 19th century” — so much so that they’ve chosen to live in the Victorian era. As much as one can, that is. To wit: Sarah wears a corset 24/7, 365 days a year. Gabriel’s gold-rimmed spectacles date from the 19th century. They own a house built in 1888, complete with oil lamps, a 19th-century gas heater, and a period-appropriate icebox that they stock with block ice. Sarah winds a mechanical clock in the parlor each morning and writes letters with an antique fountain pen; both wash in a cast-iron claw-foot bathtub using Castile bar soap from a company established in 1839. Neither owns a cellphone. Sarah has never even had a driver’s license!

In short, these two are the real deal, living a life as authentically close to that of the Victorian era as possible. It’s as impressive as it is intriguing.

So why do this grand scale experiment? For one, the Chrismans are period historians, speakers, writers, and authors, though their research methods are admittedly quite different than most. And they simply love — and chose — this lifestyle.

“It’s not as though someone suddenly dropped us into a ready-furnished Victorian existence one day — that sort of thing only happens in fairy tales and Hollywood,” Sarah writes in a new personal essay for Vox. “It took mutual support to challenge society’s dogmas of how we should live, how we should learn.”

It isn’t easy, she continues, reflecting on times she’s been called a “freak” or received hate mail. But Sarah notes that “much of modern technology has become a collection of magic black boxes,” and that “the systems that dominate people’s lives have become so opaque that few Americans have even the foggiest notion what makes most of the items they touch every day work.” In contrast, the Chrismans are heavily involved in the upkeep and maintenance of their antique heaters, lamps, clocks, etc., and as a result more mindful of their make and value. “Learning to use all these technologies gives us confidence to exist in the world on our own terms,” Sarah writes.

What do you think? Could you set aside your smartphone, news feed, fast food delivery, hair dryer, and basically the whole modern world, even for a day? No matter whether you go to this extreme or not (and likely not), it’s an interesting experiment, even if it’s only truly a partial experience — you can assume that the Chrismans have access to modern medicines and computers, as they do maintain a website filled with costume-y biking pictures that look straight out of the hipster Barbie Instagram account.

But there’s an even more important lesson here: that you can choose to live life on your own terms. And that’s one we can absolutely get behind.

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Julian 4T
Wow... that's weird!
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