Mark Twain and Charles Dickens were arguably the greatest writers of the 19th century in America and Britain, respectively, and were certainly the most popular. Their careers follow a sort of parallel route as both used their stories to highlight the plight of the downtrodden, and both used the skewer of humor to deflate puffed-up authority figures. A question came up in a writer’s panel I once attended pondering whether they ever met. It turns out I’ve done a little bit of research into that very question.
I’m fascinated in instances of famous historical personages meeting, and the stories behind them. The famous photo of Nixon posing with Elvis in the Oval Office always comes to mind, although there are many other famous meet-ups in history. Continue reading
This post is the first in what will be an occasional series on the idiosyncrasies of old houses, their parts, and their décor. Anyone who lives in an old house knows there are many.
Today, let’s talk about chandeliers. But wait, “chandeliers”, strictly speaking, are lit with candles, even though in today’s vernacular, the term is used for any hanging light fixture. But the Victorians, being ever so precise, invented other terms.
A “gasolier” was lit with gas. Gasoliers can be identified as the shade points upward, and is usually wider to accommodate the gas jet. The light, such as it was, was produced by a rather dim, flickering open flame. Here’s a catalogue from the period which shows several gasoliers. Another way to identify a gasolier is the presence of a valve usually on the supporting arm, but sometimes on the burner. Continue reading
One of the more interesting ways to while away the hours is by looking at old photographs, especially those from the birth of photography in the mid-1800s. An amazing amount of detail can be gleaned from a photograph printed from a large glass plate.
But are we really seeing what we think we’re seeing? First off, the images are necessarily monochromatic—black and white. Any color that is seen in black-and-white photographs is a result of hand-tinting the photograph, typically to put some color in the subject’s cheeks. Color photography, although experimented with even early on in photography’s history, was extremely cumbersome, and required laboratory-grade equipment to pull off. Even the great Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell thought about color reproduction and what is considered to be the first color photograph was made using a technique he first described.
So we’re left with black-and-white photography for the Victorian Era. But are we really seeing a proper monochromatic reproduction of reality? In most cases, the answer is no. Continue reading