Helpless Victorian Ladies? Think again!

I’m sharing a link to an entertaining post from the blog Strange Company entitled innocently enough, “Newspaper Clipping(s) of the Day” but whose contents belie that bland description.

OK, this woman seems to be over-reacting a bit.

OK, this woman seems to be over-reacting a bit.

Based on clippings from the “Illustrated Police News“, one of the most sensationalist London newspapers of the day, the post contains illustrations of Victorian women taking matters into their own hands when accosted, insulted, or otherwise violated. These ladies are definitely self-rescuing.

I can imagine a female steampunk character emulating these ladies.  In fact, I have a character taking after the woman in March 28, 1896’s drawing when accosted by an evil-doer.

A Japanese View of Victorian London

A View of the Thames by Utagawa Yoshitora, c. 1860s.  Image from the Library of Congress collection.

A View of the Thames by Utagawa Yoshitora, c. 1860s. Image from the Library of Congress collection.

In the spirit of Steampunk Hands Around the World 2015, I’d like to share a view of Victorian London as depicted by a Japanese artist of the time, Utagawa Yoshitora. Whether writing, creating, or defining your steampunk persona, it is always helpful to see through others’ eyes and gain a fresh perspective.

More details on the artist and these prints at the always informative Two Nerdy History Girls blog.

Old House Idiosyncrasies #2–Imbrication

DSC_0271Imbrication is a fancy word that means the overlapping of edges, such as in scales or tiles.  Or shingles, as it turns out.  In architectural parlance, imbrication is the use of specially shaped shingles to create a decorative effect.  Imbrication is often seen in Victorian homes, especially those built in the Queen Anne style, between about 1880-1900. Continue reading

Goldsworthy Gurney–Gentleman Scientist

Goldsworthy_Gurney_-_PD-OLDSir 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.

John Tyndall—The Man who Discovered the Answer to “Why is the Sky Blue?”

John_Tyndall_1I am often amazed by Victorian scientists and engineers who seem to have had infinite curiosity, wide-ranging interests, and, somehow, the time to make pioneering contributions in a number of disparate fields. Francis Galton, Michael Faraday, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel are all examples of these larger-than-life characters. So is John Tyndall.

“Who?” you say. If you ever took an introductory chemistry class, you might remember the “Tyndall Effect” describing how light is scattered in a colloid or another solution containing small particles. It may seem like a pretty narrow and arcane scientific achievement, but as I will describe, light scattering is pretty important, and besides, it was only one of many achievements from this most Victorian of scientists.

John Tyndall was born in Ireland of an English family in 1820. He attended the local schools, learning amongst other things, drafting. This knowledge came into good stead when he was hired by the Irish Ordnance Survey. As the British railways were being built in the 1840s, there was a great demand for surveyors, prompting Tyndall to work for several years in Britain in railway construction planning.

After railway work slackened and intellectual pursuits called him, he left Britain for Germany to further his education in science. At the time, British universities focused on classics and mathematics, and not practical science, whereas Germany schools were known to be more advanced in the practical sciences.

Tyndall landed at the University of Marburg, where he studied under, amongst other people, Robert Bunsen, of Bunsen Burner fame. During his time in Germany, he became adept at experimental and laboratory procedures in a number of different scientific disciplines. Continue reading

A Christmas Carol

Frontispiece and title page of the first edition, 1843.

Frontispiece and title page of the first edition, 1843.

On this day, December the nineteenth, in 1843, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol (full title: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.) One could debate whether he took advantage of the entire Christmas shopping season by releasing the book only six days before Christmas, but since the first printing of 6000 was completely sold out by Christmas Eve, one must admit that it was a smash hit. And since its debut it has become even more popular, rivaling only, you know, The Bible, as the most known Christmas story. Continue reading

Spooky Lego Victorian Houses

Victorian on Mud Heap (Creator:  Mike Doyle, Source: Mike Doyle Flckr stream, see link in text)

Victorian on Mud Heap (Creator: Mike Doyle, Source: Mike Doyle Flckr stream, see link in text)

One of the hobbies that my sons and I share is building with Lego.  While we’ve made some pretty cool creations (maybe I’ll share my steampunk private railway carriage some day), we’ve achieved nothing that compares with Mike Doyle’s amazingly detailed Victorian homes.  The twist? They’re deserted and falling to ruin.  His use of a monochromatic color scheme in these is both inspired and realistic.  Many more examples on his Flickr stream.