Category: DeeDee Wood

Victorian Christmas traditions

The Industrial Revolution in England helped Christmas reach more homes in the Victorian Era, an influence we still see today in our holiday decorating, cards we send, and traditions we hold dear. Queen Victoria and her family set the example of the ideal family unit, with children, presents and times at home. The Victorian era and mass production helped fuel what we see today in the holiday market. One very Victorian tradition was the Christmas card. A process called chromolithographic reproduction aided the mass production of the Christmas card, and it made this product more affordable for the average person. Scenes of religious depictions, nature, snow and the season adorned beautiful cards that could be sent, via post, to relatives and friends far and wide. Instead of time-consuming letters and hand-rendered depictions, one could send a mass produced card over and over with ease. The tradition of sending a card had begun. Industrialization of the era caused more of the middle class to have disposable income. Due to this new concept in households, there was a rise in the mass market for toys, decorations, and trinkets of all kinds. The Christmas cracker, or cookie, was inspired by French sweets wrapped in paper, and was first invented by Tom Smith, a candy store owner in England in the 1840s. The first Christmas cookies coming out of this era included a...

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The Gilded Age

The term “Gilded Age” was coined by Mark Twain to describe a period of United States history in the late 19th century, spanning a time period between the 1870s to 1900. Twain was poking a satirical finger into society at the time, describing serious social problems in society and class differences, covered by a thin gilt of gold. Rapid economic growth, industrialism and expansion of wealth all contributed to interiors, exteriors, home decor and the building of some of the finest mansions and public venues the United States, or the world, had ever seen. Everything that glittered was truly gold in the Gilded Age. The Gilded Age saw very rapid economic growth in the US, as industrialization led to huge wage growth, strong labor forces, and a quick, massive amount of wealth for business owners and the social elite, especially in the North and West. Railroads, mining, factories and finance ruled the day in this era. During this time period, as well, there was a huge divide between immigrants, impoverished regions, lack of labor laws and unequal concentrations of wealth. It was a tumultuous time period in this country’s history, as the engines that ran the machines symbolized the might of the bank rolls driving the homes, furnishings and decor of the wealthy, all built to impress with jaw-dropping results. Some of the finest examples of the Gilded Age...

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The legend of the Robert the Doll

“Robert the Doll” lives in Key West, Fla. Innocent looking with his sailor suit and toy bear, Robert is said to wreak havoc on anyone that takes his photo or chides him in any way. Hundreds of letters are sent to Robert, begging for forgiveness, as visitors’ lives fall apart after crossing the infamous doll. His history is an interesting one, and the haunting even more so. Robert the Doll started out his life as a gift to a lonely boy. The doll was given to Robert Eugene Otto (known as “Gene” to family and friends), who lived in Key West, Fla. The doll was German, made by the Steiff Company, and was purchased by Gene’s grandfather while he was on a trip to Germany in 1904, and given to young Gene as a birthday gift. The doll wore the same little sailor suit that the young boy liked to wear, and the doll and the child became inseparable. The Ottos had servants who would be cleaning the upper floors where the young boy’s room was located, and would swear they would hear conversations in different voices and tones coming out of the bedroom, only to find the child and the doll were completely alone in the room. Sometimes at night, the parents would find young Robert Eugene screaming and crying, furniture upended and his room a mess. As...

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Dresden porcelain: German excellence

Dresden porcelain is recognized in the antiques industry as the hallmark of good taste and fine German porcelain manufacturing. German hard-paste porcelain was produced in the Meissen factory, so Dresden is also known as Meissen, and it began very early, in 1710 in Dresden/Saxony, present day Germany. The Chinese developed a product called porcelain that the Europeans desperately wanted to copy. Known for the hardness of a rock and the beauty of a shell, manufacturers could not figure out how, indeed, it was made. The secret of porcelain, the ultimate ingredient being kaolin, was discovered and copied by alchemists and physicists in 1707, opening up the market for Germans to produce a hard-paste porcelain, ripe for the hungry European markets In the early 1700s, the Dresden factory made dinnerware, figures and more, and the demand and flow of business began to pick up. Dresden-decorated porcelain was popular, and in 1731, a sculptor named Johann Joachim Kandler developed a decoration called onion pattern, which was widely copied and admired. The porcelain has a mark of crossed blue swords for antique identification purposes. We take porcelain and the secret that it holds for granted in modern times, but in the early 1700s, Dresden dominated European porcelain manufacturing until about 1756, when it was surpassed by the famous Sevres French porcelain, known for very high standards of excellence in production and quality....

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Exploring history of the phonograph

The year was 1857 and French inventor, Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville, invented the first “sound” machine that future inventors would take ideas from and expand upon for better machines. Scott de Martinville invented something called the phonautograph, which recorded sound waves from a horn, with a wire mechanism scratching the wave patterns onto a type of disc that was painted with lamp black. It was used to identify wave patterns, not sound, visually. This idea spurred along many inventors, and ultimately created what we know now as the phonograph, a machine that changed the way we listen to and record music, as well as the concept of the telephone and other machines that have roots in sound and recordings. Thomas Edison had always been a curious sort, even as a boy. As an inventor, he used some of Scott de Martinville’s sound recording ideas and began his first crude machines he called phonographs. Edison was working on telegraphy and wanted a better way to transmit a telegraph message. He wanted to capture Morse code on spools of paper and play back the sound somehow, and extend this idea to telephones. He wanted to capture the human voice on a recording device, so he looked to the telegraph, studied how to expand upon this idea, and began to experiment. Scott de Martinville’s concept of a machine that recorded sound came...

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    November 15 @ 10:00 am - December 31 @ 5:30 pm
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    December 22 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm