Strap on those brass goggles and gas up the zeppelin, honey. The 5th edition of Cabinet of Curiosities is heavily into Steampunk. What could be more curious than a branch of speculative fiction spawning an entire alternative lifestyle for retro, do-it-yourselfers with a flair for dark wood and brass rivets?
"Steampunk has its roots in science fiction literature, where it describes a corner of the genre obsessed with Victoriana and the idea that the computer age evolved alongside the industrial. Steampunk stories, which started appearing with regularity in the 1980s, eschew clean and orderly visions of the future in favor of gas-lighted streets, steam engines belching toxic smoke, and dastardly villains inventing strange technologies. Dirigibles rule the air, and the upper classes employ clockwork servants to serve their meals."
Steampunk tips its hat to the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, as well as Twain, Lovecraft and, one assumes, Frank L Baum, whose oeuvre has many beloved Steampunk elements (Tin Man, Tik-Tok and those great green goggles). Films like Wild Wild West and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, while box office duds, are classics of Steampunk sensibility. 19th-century inventors Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison are often cited as Steampunk idols, but I would think there would be ample room in the pantheon for Alexander Graham Bell:
"Alexander Graham Bell
Note the name and note it well
Father of the modern age
His inventions are all the rage
Of course there was the telephone
He’d be famous for that alone
But there’s 50 other things as well
From Alexander Graham Bell"
From there you can follow links to the wondrous creations of AlexCF, a retrofuture cryptozoological assemblage artist, who will be more than happy to show you his wares. His necropathic spectregraph (shown at left and auctioned at eBay) looks particularly handy for all you spiritualists.
If you are really having trouble with gaslight poltergeists, then Ectoplasmosis! recommends you call a Steampunk ghostbuster. The gentleman in question (pictured at right) was spotted at the 2007 San Diego Comic Con last summer.
"Beautiful, weird, hand-machined -- this is not just art attached to an existing quartz movement, but a fully realized working pendulum clock out of brass and rice paper. The particular clock's inspiration is based on the calligraphy of the numbers."
Steampunk is where the cool kids from shop class go to play. The grand master of this gears 'n goggles breed of engineers is Jake Von Slatt, proprietor of The Steampunk Workshop where keyboards get tricked out in electrolytic etched brass and fellow DIYers take his ideas and run with them.
The most recent elaboration on a Von Slatt theme is this much envied MacMini monitor and keyboard, pimped out in Steampunk glory by Dave Veloz.
All it needs is a Steampunk furnace mouse with glowing LED coal!
If you are not handy at hand-tooling machinery, you can still get your Steampunk on with all sorts of fanciful garb through the Aether Emporium.
Nor is the Steampunk aesthetic restricted to some Anglo-American tech-nexus. From Uruguay, Marie shares some fantastical Steampunk illumination devices.
Going Like Sixty observes that late boomers, like Steampunk itself, are "suitably old, but mysteriously advanced."
You can get your very own Pavoni PG-16 Romantica 16-cup Espresso Machine in brass for just under 1K at Amazon - a must have for the Steampunk dream kitchen - or maybe you can get your gauntlets on this Etienne Louis, mechanical hedgehog looking design (at right), previewed at ESP Visuals. Actually, it looks even more like a WWI era anti-ship mine to me, but maybe the coffee is just that potent.
Janice Brown of Cow Hampshire is a collector of Granite State historical oddities, and for this edition of Cabinet of Curiosities she offers up a cautionary tale of the perils of 19th-century self-doctoring in Hanover NH: Death by Sponge in 1851.
Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi's Terry Thornton uncovers the interesting and sad history of a wall hanging in his home. A scrap of paper on the back leads him to some dark places, extremely well researched and sensitively explored:
"The more I research this old framed piece of embroidery, the more I wish I could "hear" all the stories of the inmates who had a hand in making it. I fear my telling of just this part of the story is only the beginning of some tales unlike any heard before. Everyone says "if walls could talk" but this is a case of wishing that individual threads sewn into a simple cottage scene could tell the story of the individual who stitched the thread into the picture."
"There is a beautiful surfeit of things of brass and wood, and apparently the museum itself is reached through a medieval church with beautiful flying machines (such as the Eole bat-plane...) hanging from intricately carved ceilings. A visual feast; where beauty and science are dramatically entwined, where history smells of varnish, tarnish and soot, and where three-wheeled steam carriages rest proudly next to hand-cranked cinomatographs."
Louis Roderiguez of ...What I Know Now explains the primary function of the Smithsonian to his UK readers as preserving the Junk of the Nation that defines a people. That sounds very much like the function of my house, except it preserves the junk that defines me.
Make: Blog directs us to Hajime Emoto's virtual Gensou Hyouhon Hakubutsukan ("Museum of Fantastic Specimens"). Never fear if you can't read Japanese; these are fabulous constructs!
The Museum of Hoaxes shares this Victorian poster for S. Watson's American Museum of Living Curiosities, complete with Australians in what could only be described as their native dress if they were from an alternate universe (click to enlarge).
And then there is the private collection of China's Dr. Liu Dalin, a professor and sociologist at Shanghai University, who is also curator of more than 1,000 objects housed in The Ancient China Sex Culture Museum.
Meanwhile, Laura Gates posts at atGeist.com about what is Arguably the World's Largest Collection of Antique Corkscrews.
"...if like me, you like to collect things from the natural world, a search for “Coyote Skull” brings back about 91,300 images. Searching for a skull to put into your very own cabinet of curiosity? Searching “Coyote Skull Retail” brings back over 66,000 sites, but you may want to further qualify your search terms. As of my typing this, there are nearly twenty different human x-ray images for sale on eBay (over a dozen of them in eBay Stores). In fact, on eBay, you can find things like crocodile teeth, meteorites, or the disarticulated skeleton of various small mammals. Building your own Wunderkammer is just a PayPal account away...."
Or you can go one-stop shopping at Madame Talbot's Victorian Lowbrow. Dark art for the masses.
Some people use the World Wide Wunderkammer to amass virtual collections of the most remarkable things, like Ethan Persoff's 21 image assortment of paper-based condom envelopes from the 1930s-1940s. If any were made in China, no doubt Dr. Dalin could find a place for them in his Shanghai Museum.
Also at EP.TC, a collection of comics with problems that includes my personal favorite: a 1956/1962 Planned Parenthood comic about birth control called Escape from Fear with the lowbrow lead-in: "Joan and Ken Harper's marriage was on the rocks - because they loved each other!"
Jessica Palmer, whose delicious blog Bioephemera makes her the ideal host for the 6th Edition of CofC in April, shares some of mixed-media artist Ron Pippin's Steampunk creations in this post From the Mad Taxidermist's Attic.
"The first stuff was toy boats. Magnificent, wondrous, perfect toy boats. Hundreds of them. They were exclusively not modern. I didn’t notice anything that looked less than 50 years old. Most looked much older than that. I got the feeling that these were Malcolm’s and, being raised a child of wealth, he got every one he ever wanted (and he wanted a lot of them). They were shown with very few placards, but mostly as if to say: “I got a zillion of these things, here they are in bulk. My collection is the greatest in the world!”
And, by George, it probably is. They were mostly steamship-type boats and they looked like they had a complete life and a wonderful time on small ponds throughout NYC over the years. None of them, at least offhand, looked like a true collector might want them: absolutely pristine and without blemish. Instead, they looked like they had been played with a lot by a boy (or a bunch of boys) with every intention of enjoying them to the max."
L.H. Crawley of The Virtual Dime Museum has just the sort of post that I had in mind when I launched this carnival. She proudly displays samples from her Cabinet of Curiosities: Yellowstone Park Stickers, circa 1940, part of a collection of sixty souvenir stickers brought back by her grandparents who made a trip there from New York by train.
"The Dom Museum’s Kunst und Wunderkammer is the lovingly recreated and restored collection once belonging to the villainous Archbishop Wolf Dietrich. Wolf Dietrich held the title of Archbishop from 1587-1612, and it was he who tore down the original Salzburg Cathedral after it was ravaged by fire, and had it rebuilt in baroque style. Today the magnificent Cathedral is the centerpiece of Mozart’s hometown (and the site of the troubled composer’s baptism). But in the late 1500s, the archbishop’s decision to tear down the damaged cathedral enraged the citizens of Salzburg. He showed complete disregard for valuable sculptures and gravestones, destroying them all. His construction crew didn’t stop at gravestones, as they plowed up the entire cathedral cemetery, unearthing and dumping the bones of the dead atop the debris. The citizens had their revenge years later, when Wolf Dietrich was arrested and imprisoned over salt mining rights; the very salt mines which gave Salzburg its namesake and 16th century riches."
Stereohyped blogs about the NBA's Chris Webber and his collection of African American artifacts, including a 1773 first edition of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems and letters written by scientist George Washington Carver and educator Booker T. Washington.
March is when most of the United States springs forward with Daylight Savings Time, so be sure to recalibrate your TDAH-meter and remember that not everything that happens in alternate Steampunk time lines stays in alternate Steampunk time lines...
And that concludes this Steampunk-inspired edition of Cabinet of Curiosities. If you like what you've seen, why not check out the links to previous editions of Cabinet of Curiosities here? Be sure to wind up your rosewood laptops for the April edition, hosted by Jessica Palmer of Bioephemera. Get out your collection of mechanical mice, dust off your rattle bags and submit your entries for the 6th Cabinet of Curiosities directly to Jennifer at cicada AT bioephemera DOT com or via the handy pneumatic submission form. Let me know if you'd like to take a future edition out for a spin and I'll make sure there's plenty of coal in the hopper.
And if you need any more convincing that Alexander Graham Bell was ever so Steampunk, just crank up your graham-o-phone and sing along with RT...
"...Graham Bell, Alexander,
It is tantamount to slander
To call him just a scientist
Why his inventions top the list
Edison, he was a thief
And Tesla nuts beyond belief
But Alexander was a gent
So philanthropic, so well meant
Founded Science Magazine
Wrote a book for kids
Because he was a caring fellow
Gave a hand to Helen Keller
Of course there was the telephone
He’d be famous for that alone
But there’s 50 other things as well
From Alexander Graham Bell..."