How the snow globe was invented
Snow globes are among the most popular souvenirs worldwide. Pretty much any tourist-interesting place can be bought as an idyll under glass. It is interesting to see how this form of souvenir came about.
Status: 07:41 a.m. | Reading time: 4 minutes
SSnow globes are among the absolute classics of the souvenir industry. Almost all places in the world that are to be taken seriously for tourism have their own idyll under glass, be it Bad Gastein, San Francisco or Paris.
Above all, it is famous buildings and landscapes with or without people, preferably in traditional costumes or bikinis, that are snowed in as souvenirs. You can hardly believe it, but this souvenir stand has a long and beautiful history.
The forerunners of the snow globes are seen as two glass spheres that were built into one another by the alchemist Leonard Thurneysser in 1572. There was a bird in the cage in the inner sphere, the outer one was filled with water and fish.
The first truly documented snow globe was shown at the Paris World’s Fair in 1887. Inside was a little man with an open umbrella. In 1889 it was the new Eiffel Tower that was placed under glass.
How Erwin Perzy invented the snow globe
It is not known whether the Viennese mechanic for surgical instruments, Erwin Perzy, knew about these bullets. In any case, he patented the idea of the 1900 snow globe and immediately opened the first snow globe factory.
Perzy practically discovered the snow globe principle while experimenting for better light sources for surgeons. In front of a carbon filament lamp he placed a glass bulb filled with water, which was supposed to intensify the glow of the light bulb.
Such pistons were called cobbler pistons because the cobblers used this type of light amplifier. Perzy tried to make the light in the flask even brighter by adding shavings of glass to the water to create reflections. But the shavings didn’t float in the glass continuously, but fell like snow on the ground.
This is how the idea of the snowing ball came about. A friend of Perzy’s had a souvenir stand in Mariazell. There Perzy sold his first balls, which contained a miniature model of the basilica of Mariazell. You were an instant hit.
Mass tourism made the souvenir popular
In the following years, many patents for glass balls were granted in France, England and the USA. They were initially listed under paperweights, less than souvenirs. It was only in the 1950s that the breakthrough came with the advent of mass tourism and new, cheaper plastics.
In 1950 the Koziol company started to produce them under the name “Traumkugeln”. In her first bullet there was a fawn in the forest – a reminder of the company owner of the look from his VW Beetle, with which he got stuck in the snow-covered Odenwald. At the same time, Walter & Prediger from Neugablonz launched a ball with a pair of traditional costumes.
Today most of the snow globes come from Asia. Small copies are available from five euros, large ones can cost 80 euros. When buying, make sure that you can refill evaporated water.
A famous collector of snow globes
In Vienna, Erwin Perzy’s manufacture is now run by the third and fourth generations. In addition to the workshop, there is a shop and a small museum. Around 200,000 snow globes are produced each year.
Top buyers are Asians – and Hollywood! The snow globe from the film “Miss Kitty”, in which Ginger Rogers sinks into daydreams with the help of the ball, comes from Perzy’s workshop. Rogers won the Oscar for her performance at the time.
But even more famous is Perzy’s snow globe made from “Citizen Kane”, which you can buy as a replica today. Inside the ball is a deep snow house that reminded Citizen Kane of his lost childhood.
Probably the most famous snow globe collector was Walter Benjamin, about whom the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno wrote in 1950: “The petrified, frozen or obsolete elements of culture, everything about it that expressed itself at home and alive, spoke to him like that Collect the petrefact (fossil) or the plant in the herbarium. Small glass balls that contain a landscape that snows when you shake them are among his favorite items. ”
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