WHO INVENTED THE SNOW GLOBES?
The inventor of snow globes. Long before the mass production of souvenirs Erwy Perzy created the first of these magical objects. Read on and you will learn his story, in which not everything is what it seems!!!
Erwy Perzy, the “official” inventor of snow globes
The most widespread story tells us that the first snow globe was invented in 1900, that is, they are already very old. so they are already a few years old. Its creator would have been Erwin Perzy, a Vienna-based surgical instrument mechanic. And as is often the case, the “discovery” came out by accident. It was only a short time ago that Thomas A. Edison had invented the light bulb. Perzy was working with a surgeon to find a way to make the light bulbs he had installed in his operating theatre shine brighter.
Perzy was originally inspired by a “trick” used by shoemakers in their workshops. They placed glass globes filled with water in front of the candles. With this they achieved a kind of “mini streetlights” that improved the lighting of the enclosure. Perzy found that by replacing the candles with light bulbs, the trick did not work. The light wasn’t getting brighter, which was what he was looking for.
Inspiration made him wonder what would happen if he added something to the water that the light would bounce off. Said and done, he tried white semolina flakes. When added to the water, the flakes became soaked and very slowly drifted to the bottom of the glass globe. This effect made Perzy remember falling snow. From here to imagining a diorama reproducing a winter scene, there was a step. Perzy introduced a miniature of the Basilica of the Birth of the Virgin Mary from Mariazell (Austria), sealed the glass globe and mounted it on a painted plaster base. The first snow globe was born!!! Or not?
Paris, always Paris …
There is evidence of snow globes prior to the one created by Erwy Perzy. Snow globe expert Nancy McMichael, in her book Snowdomes, points out the appearance of this object at the first World’s Fair in Paris in 1878 . These snow globes were allegedly produced by a local glass company. Small in size, they contained the figure of a man holding an umbrella.
A few years later at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889, a local souvenir seller created snow globes. Also small in size, inside it contained a ceramic reproduction of the Eiffel Tower presented at the exhibition. Some specimens are still preserved today, one of them in the Andy Zito museum, which you can see in the image.
Erwy Perzy, the driving force behind the snow globes.
Although he was not the inventor in the strict sense, E. Perzy, together with his brother, was responsible for the snow globes and for the fact that they have lasted until today. In 1900 he patented his invention and created the Original Wiener Schneekugel Manufaktur that still works at full capacity today.
During the first forty years, the figurine that was introduced into the snow globes was always a church. Erwy Perzy’s son later introduced other types of “winter” figurines to which were added souvenirs from Vienna. The material that simulates snow remains a secret.
As a curiosity related to E. Perzy, at Christmas 2022 the songwriter Lee Howe composed a song thanking Perzy for his invention. Its title “Shake your snow globes“.
A momentum that keeps up.
Today the family business is run by Erwy Perzy III, the founder’s grandson. Its catalog includes more than 350 models and the manufacturing method remains completely handmade: all the snow globes are assembled and painted by hand. Production is around 200,000 units a year, of which around 20% are customised snow globes made to order.
The Perzy family has created customised snow globes for a wide range of well-known personalities, including several White House tenants. But undoubtedly one of his most significant creations is the famous snow globe that explodes on the ground as Charles Foster Kane dies in the final scene of the legendary Citizen Kane.
In this BBC report you can meet Erwy Percy III and learn more about the history of snow globes. It is in English, but do not stop watching it. The close-ups of the snow globes, they are beautiful!!!
If you feel like it …
Here you can take a look at other curiosities related to snow globes.
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