You may wonder how the Victorians entertained themselves before the invention of radio and television. Why, fern hunting, of course!

Victorians were obsessed with ferns. Up until the nineteenth century, ferns were rare in England. To the Victorians, these plants captured the mystery and majesty of another era. Naturalist Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward was the first to discover a method of reproducing the plants indoors, in glass terrariums called Wardian cases.

terrarium_nypl_1
Possessing one’s own fern collection quickly became a sought-after status symbol. Fern-hunting parties became popular among society hostesses, providing an opportunity for women to get outside…and to mingle with men!

gathering-fern