Merry Music Makers

The Music Box

For a person of means in the Victorian era, a music box was central to the parlor. In fact, unless blessed with a musically talented family member, a household’s primary source of musical entertainment was the music box.

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The bird box was a popular style of music box in the late 1800s.

These beautiful musical units, crafted by jewelers, were reminiscent of tinkling church bells.

Unfortunately, with the invention of Thomas Edison’s phonograph in 1910, production of revolving cylinder devices nearly ceased entirely, and the Victorian music box became a lost art.

The Gramophone

The first successful system of sound recording – the gramophone – was invented by Emile Berliner, a German immigrant working in Washington D.C., in 1887. Emile was the first inventor to begin recording on flat discs, or records. Continue reading “Merry Music Makers”

Cedar Point Ghost

Opened in 1870 on Lake Erie, Cedar Point is the second-oldest amusement park in America and was home to the 1921 Dentzel Carousel, which traveled from park to park until landing there in 1971.v_carousel_hampstead_heath

Artist Shelly was unaware of the stories whispered by employees about the ghostly lady who rode the carousel at night. She was simply fascinated by historic carousels – so fascinated that she made them the main subject of her work. Her life-sized renderings in pastels and oils depict carved animals from famous carousels. As drawn as she was to some of those marvelous menageries, she cannot explain why one plain old brownish horse captivated her two decades ago.

“I spent several days in a row, one summer, going back and photographing it,” she confided. She had no idea that the one horse by which she was so inexplicably mesmerized was haunted. Continue reading “Cedar Point Ghost”

Wake Up!

Strange Professions of the Victorian Era: Before alarm clocks became affordable or reliable, there existed a profession in 1920s Britain and Ireland called the knocker-upper. The knocker-upper’s job was to rouse sleeping people so they could get to work on time. 

Knocker-up

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The Gibson Girl

The “Gibson Girl” was a pen-and-ink drawing by New York artist Charles Dana Gibson that first appeared in the 1890s. Characterized by her hourglass figure and soft hair piled into a chignon, the Gibson Girl represented the ideal American girl.

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Who’s Under There?

Guess who’s behind the floral print cloth?

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In the 19th century, the long exposure times of cameras meant that children had to stay perfectly still for a matter of minutes in order to have their image captured. As a result, many Victorian photographs contain hidden mothers trying to keep their squirmy little ones still enough to produce non-blurry picture!

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The Green Fairy

Absinthe, an anise-flavored, emerald green liquor, was created by French doctor Pierre Ordinaire. Using local herbs, most notably wormwood, he concocted a drinkable elixir rumored to be a cure-all for a variety of ailments, including malaria.

29034_large.jpgWith a massive wine shortage in France in the late 19th century, absinthe quickly became France’s most fashionable drink. In French cafés, 5 p.m. became known as “l’heure verte,” or the “green hour,” signaling the flow of absinthe into the late hours of the evening.

Nicknamed la fée verte (the green fairy) for its hallucinogenic properties, absinthe was the drink of choice for all, from the wealthy bourgeoisie to the working classes. The most famous of absinthe drinkers were the Bohemians – artists, writers and intellectuals. Among Absinthe’s insatiable enthusiasts were Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Oscar Wilde, Pablo Picasso, Edgar Allan Poe, and Mark Twain, who raved about the drink’s creative and poetic effects.

Bring On the Bubbly!

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Pop the cork…today we celebrate the invention of champagne! The man responsible was a Benedictine monk by the name of Dom Perignon. As director of the abbey wine cellar, Perignon was charged with the task of ridding the abbey’s homemade sparkling wine of its pesky bubbles. Perignon failed to do so, but as legend has it, he tasted his failed vintage and exclaimed, “Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!” And so champagne was born… Continue reading “Bring On the Bubbly!”

Summer’s Sweet Bouquet

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“As perfume doth remain, in the folds where it hath lain, so the thought of you, remaining deeply folded in my brain, will not leave me: all things leave me: You remain.” -Arthur Symons

I believe the olfactory sense is the most underrated. Aroma arouses subconscious moods, unearthing ancient and nearly forgotten emotions of early youth. When I was little, Woolworths would offer tiny bottles of headache-inducing “Blue Waltz” and “Midnight in Paris” for a mere dime that I invested for well-intended Mother’s Day remembrances. I have fond recollections of my sisters and me smearing honeysuckle blossoms on our skin after extracting the bead of honey on our tongues. The mustiness of geraniums and irises conjures early summer bliss. Even sunshine had a fragrance that clothesline garments absorbed. The wild mint that grew profusely along our fence would infuse our tea with a tingling burst.

Signature scents remind us of someone we know who douses the fragrance because it speaks to them. A subtle scent lingered upon our mother’s handkerchiefs while the brand of soap or shaving cream our father used could be detected when he would embrace us. Spicy musk, innocent powders, romantic florals, clean citrus…our partiality towards a perfume denotes our tendencies. Christian Dior is quoted as saying “A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting.” Continue reading “Summer’s Sweet Bouquet”

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