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Elisha Perkins: Eighteenth-century Metallic Tractor Inventor

By Geri Walton | August 31, 2020

Elisha Perkins was a United States physician and inventor who created a fraudulent medical device to cure inflammation, rheumatism, and pain. His story begins when he was born on 16 January 1741 in Norwich, Connecticut to and Mary Bushnell II and Joseph Perkins, who had graduated from Yale College in 1727 and practiced medicine in…

Midwinter Fair: California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894

By Geri Walton | August 24, 2020

The California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894, referred to as the “Midwinter Fair,” was a World’s Fair, like the U.K.’s Great Exhibition or Paris’ Exposition Universelle. The Midwinter Fair came about after U.S. President Benjamin Harrison, grandson to the ninth U.S. President, William Henry Harrison, appointed Californian Michael H. de Young as a national commissioner…

Emperor Norton: Colorful Self-proclaimed Emperor

By Geri Walton | August 17, 2020

Emperor Norton was Joshua Abraham Norton, a citizen of San Francisco, California, who declared himself “Norton I, Emperor of the United States” in 1859. He was the son of farmer John Norton and Sarah Norden, both English Jews. The exact date of his birth is unclear and records conflict although it seems he was born…

Fonthill Castle: Edwin Forrest’s Country Estate

By Geri Walton | August 10, 2020

Fonthill Castle was built in 1852 in The Bronx borough of New York City by prominent American Shakespearean actor Edwin Forrest and his wife Catherine Norton Sinclair. According to American actor Lawrence Barrett, the architectural designs used to build Fonthill Castle came from the ideas generated by Sinclair and were then approved by Forrest. However,…

Wigs: Their Wearers and Eighteenth-Century Anecdotes

By Geri Walton | August 3, 2020

In the eighteenth century, those who wore wigs almost always powdered them. By the 1780s, young men were moving away from wigs and were powdering their own natural hair and by the 1790s both wigs and hair powder were used primarily by older, more conservative men, such as Voltaire, whom Madame Tussaud made sure had…

Ann Moore: The Impostor and Fasting-Woman of Tutbury

By Geri Walton | July 27, 2020

Ann Moore became famous as the “fasting-woman of Tutbury.” That was because she claimed that from 1807 to 1813, she ate nothing at all. Of course, such a claim was ludicrous and eventually her claims were proven to be a hoax and she was declared an impostor, just like the Kewsick impostor John Hatfield.

Olivia Langdon Clemens: Wife to Mark Twain

By Geri Walton | July 20, 2020

Olivia Langdon Clemens, often called “Livy” by her husband, was born on 27 November 1845 to Jervis Langdon, a wealthy businessman, and his wife, Olivia Lewis Langdon, in Elmira, New York. The family was religious, reformist, and abolitionist. Olivia was tutored at home and attended the Thurston’s Female Seminary and Elmira Female College, a school…

Eye Miniatures: For Lovers of the 18th and 19th centuries

By Geri Walton | July 13, 2020

Eye miniatures became a popular item to exchange among lovers and although the fashion began in the late 1700s it reached its zenith around 1803 or 1804. Among some of the earliest pieces produced was one given by the Prince Regent (the future George IV) to his lover and mistress Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert. The gift…

Madame de Staël and Madame Récamier: A True Friendship

By Geri Walton | July 6, 2020

Madame de Staël and Madame Récamier became friends when Madame de Staël, whose first name was Germaine, was selling her father’s home in Paris. Her father was Jacques Necker, a prominent and popular banker and statesman who served as Director-General of Finance under Louis XVI. He was selling his rue du Mont Blanc home because…

Fourth of July: Celebrating Independence Day, 1777-1870

By Geri Walton | June 29, 2020

The Fourth of July, or Independence Day as it is sometimes called, did not become an official federal holiday anywhere in the United States until the U.S. Congress declared it as such on 28 June 1870 along with three other federal holidays, Christmas, New Years, and Thanksgiving. Part of the reason it took so long…