A few years ago, I had the chance to tour the Newport Mansions in Rhode Island, the “summer cottages” of the Gilded Age wealthy. While the mansions are over-the-top gorgeous (and literally built to impress), I found the kitchens, sculleries, and butlers’ pantries more interesting. Maybe because I could actually picture the people who worked there. I’m not sure how much if anything I have in common with the social set of Newport. The photo below shows the amazing kitchen and two story butler’s pantry at The Breakers, one of the more splendid “cottages” in Newport.
Gavin Ashworth and The Preservation Society of Newport County
This link connects to a site that shows the evolution of the kitchen from the 1870s to the 1970s. It’s a little click-baity, but the illustrations and photographs of vintage kitchens more than make up for a.
And it’s a good reminder of why those of us who live in vintage houses, generally don’t have kitchens from the period. I like my refrigerator and microwave, and wouldn’t really enjoy keeping the stove stoked and the ice box full of ice.
Here’s an interesting article about Victorian food. Like many other things, there was a great change in diet during the Victorian Age. Most of the foods that Victorians ate would still be considered relatively healthy today, although very different in composition than today’s diet–no kale, bananas or sushi. Probably not too surprising is that the amount of food that one consumed, or could afford to consume, made a huge difference in overall health.
A steampunk outfit is really made by its accessories. They at once evoke the Victorian era that typifies the time frame of much of Steampunk culture, as well as adding bits of interest to your outfit. And no matter what manner of steampunk outfit you wear, you can always think up a reason why your character has been awarded a medal.
I’ve got a few medals that I’ve bought over time. My airship wings are one of my favorites, as is the George V cap badge from the Royal Engineers that I turned into a pin. (I know, not strictly Steampunk era, but close!) But I wanted something unique. Continue reading
Before there were MP3 files, before CDs, before vinyl, there were waxed cylinders upon which were stored the faint tracings that could be replayed as sound.
Thomas Edison patented the first phonograph in 1880, and cylinders maintained their popularity until the 1910s when discs began to outsell them. The University of California, Santa Barbara has archived and digitized over 10,000 of these cylinders and made them available on the web.
Rummaging through the collection gives a real taste of the turn of the (last) century. Most of the cylinders contain music. If you like marches, this was the time of John Philip Sousa. There are also some recordings of important speeches of the day, including several by Theodore Roosevelt, and a description of his journeys in Antarctica by Ernest Shackleton.
For the steampunk enthusiast, there’s also a recording from 1905 of a song titled, “Come, take a trip in my air-ship.” (And for a modern recording of this song, listen to Unwoman (a Steampunk favorite) sing it. You can even buy her version on a cylinder, in case vinyl isn’t hip enough for you!)
Personally, I’ve used these recordings to give a bit of ambience as background music in a historic house museum I’m involved with. Most people don’t notice it, but it lends a bit more authenticity to the experience, I find. And I’ve spent a fair amount of time just perusing the archives, listening to the sounds of ghosts from the past.
I’m the first to admit that I know little about sewing and almost as little about details of Victorian fashions, but I am keen on dispelling myths about the past, especially those that are endlessly repeated on the Interwebs or, even worse, by docents at historic homes and museums.
So, I found this article on myths of corsets both entertaining and informative. Now, as a proper Victorian man, I wouldn’t be expected to know anything about corsets for the most part. But as an improper Steampunk man, well, Steampunk women wear their corsets on the outside, so they’re not as hidden as they would otherwise be.
The article busts (see what I did there?) the myths of corsets and how they were supposedly worn using actual measurements of historic garments, and explaining how the illusion of the hourglass figure was created. So the next time you come across an expert telling you about 18-inch Victorian waists and removing ribs and pushing organs around and the origin of the fainting couch, you’ll know better.
Sir Goldsworthy Gurney is a prime example of that most Victorian of species: the gentleman scientist. A man of independent means who did not actually need to work to earn his living, and who possessed a scientific mind could make a fair contribution to inventing the 19th century. Such a man was Gurney.
He invented the limelight–a lamp which glowed when heated with an oxygen/hydrogen flame and used to enduring fame in lighting actors on stage.
In the 1820s he invented a steam carriage and proved that it could travel long distances even over the rough roads of the day.
In 1856, he patented an improved heater, called the Gurney Stove, some of which are still in use to this day!
Here’s a link to an article on the BBC website about this interesting and not-very-well-known man.