The Gamble House in Pasadena, California demonstrates the epitome of the Arts and Crafts style. Designed by the noted architects Greene and Greene for David Gamble, the son of one of the founders of the Proctor and Gamble Company.
The Arts and Crafts, or Craftsman, style encompasses natural forms and materials. The Gamble House uses several different species of woods, rocks from the nearby riverbed, and patterns of stained glass reflecting flowers and trees. The architects also designed custom furniture for the house.
Built in 1908, the house remained in the family until 1966. There had been interest from potential buyers–one wanted to paint the intricate woodwork interior white. In order to ensure the preservation of the craftsmanship and artistry of the house, it was donated to the City of Pasadena.
The Gamble House is normally open for tours, but in these Days of Covid, a virtual tour has been devised describing the architecture and history of the house.
So, how does the Gamble House connect with Steampunk? It made its screen debut as Doc Brown’s house in Back to the Future.
Living in San Jose, California and being interested in all things Victorian, it would be impossible for me to ignore the largest Victorian house in the United States, the house built by Sarah Winchester. A recent article on the always interesting Atlas Obscura website which details some of the history of the Winchester House got me thinking about this architectural marvel.
The house, which is gaining some newfound notoriety because of the recently released movie, Winchester, starring Helen Mirren, was Sarah Winchester’s home from 1884 until her death in 1922. She moved west from New Haven, Connecticut a few years after the death of her husband John, one of the owners of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. As her husband’s heir, she received a generous inheritance, as well as a major share of the company. She moved into a small farmhouse surrounded by orchards, and started adding on, building a home more suitable to her fortune and social standing. Continue reading →
Isaac Newton, at age 46, portrait by Godfre Kneller, 1689.
Isaac Newton is one of the towering intellects in the history of Science. He formulated the laws of motion, investigated the nature of light, and invented calculus, among many other accomplishments. Less well known, however, are his experiments in chymistry. Continue reading →
September 22, 1791 is the birthday of my favorite scientist, Michael Faraday.
Here is a portrait painted of him at age 51, looking much younger than he does in most of his later photographic portraits.
Portrait of Michael Faraday in 1841, painted by Thomas Phillips.
If you’re interested in reading more about this fascinating man, see this blog post. A slightly more fictional Michael Faraday also features prominently in my latest steampunk adventure novel, “The Secret Notebook of Michael Faraday.”
Of late the dispatches from London have concerned a gigantic “fatberg” that has completely blocked one of the main sewer channels under Whitechapel. That the capital’s Victorian sewer system is just now reaching capacity is due to the foresight and engineering genius of Mr. Joseph Bazalgette who was given the mandate to update London’s sewer system following a series of cholera epidemics in the 1830s and 1840s.
When calculating out the dimensions of the pipes, he considered the highest population density producing the most amount of sewage. Then he reportedly said, “Well, we’re only going to do this once and there’s always the unforeseen,” and doubled the diameter. It is estimated that Bazalgette’s prudence bought an extra 50 years of life to his brick-lined sewage channels, so that only now is London needing to upgrade its system.
A very informative article in Prospect Magazine investigates the genesis of the Fatberg in more detail.
The upcoming total solar eclipse prompted me to look into the grand history of scientific expeditions, specifically expeditions to observe rare astronomical events.
Captain Cook’s observatory on Tahiti. Note the carefully mounted long-case clock.
One of the first voyages of discovery was to the newly discovered island of Tahiti (well, at least new to Europeans, the Tahitians obviously already knew it existed) on a ship called HMS Endeavour captained by a young Royal Navy Lieutenant by the name of James Cook. The purpose of the voyage (at least publicly…) was to observe the Transit of Venus of 1769, that is, to watch and accurately time the planet Venus crossing in front of the sun. The ship’s company also included Joseph Banks, the famed botanist who brought along with him several assistants, two artists, and two servants. Charles Green was appointed by the Royal Society to by one of the ship’s astronomers, the other being Cook himself who was a skilled observer.
And why all this expense to travel to the other side of the globe to observe one arcane astronomical event? The public reason was to improve navigation, specifically determination of longitude. While the latitude of a ship at sea was easily determined with a sextant and a sunny noon-time, longitude was more difficult. By comparing the times of the Transit of Venus at various places across the globe–some of whose positions were already accurately known, the longitudes of the observing sites could be determined with greater precision. (The longitude problem was eventually solved by John Harrison and his marine chronometers.)
So the Endeavour reached Tahiti, they timed the Transit, and then Cook opened his second set of sealed orders which essentially said, “Go look for this Terra Australis we keep hearing about, and if you find it, claim it for Britain.” After completely mapping the coast of New Zealand, Cook sailed a bit further west and found Australia.
Later astronomical expeditions were somewhat less imperialistic.