The time was spring 1893 and the civilized western world was eagerly awaiting the start of the Chicago World’s Fair. For months everyone had heard of a new technology that could light up entire cities without a drop of kerosene, the flicker of flame, or choking smoke. No, it was not Thomas Edison’s light-bulbs, but Nikola Tesla’s waves of alternating currents that would illuminate the Fair’s entire neo-classical city, as if to bring back the great minds of Greece into the Victorian-era of technology. President Grover Cleveland pushed a button and thousands of incandescent lamps lit-up the fairgrounds like little full moons. The world would never be the same again. Imagine yourself in that place, at that time, and all you had known at night was the bleak shimmering glow of yellow-orange hue around you. Now you see everything under bright white beams that evaporate darkness.
What that night must have felt like — hearing all the on-looking gasps — I can only dream and sigh.
The Victorian-era was a thriving age of science, history, literature, exquisite fashion and art. And although it had its inhumanity in such things as child labor and women’s suffrage, to name two, it is the origins of remarkable discoveries in medical vaccines, anatomy, chemistry, and physics (including the first ceramic toilet) that soon made the world a little easier to bear. Today’s Steampunk is a tribute to those virtues.
The slide show below is for your modern-historical enlightenment of a few Neo-Victorian contraptions you might find at Steampunk shoppes or conventions.
Due to caption limitations of the slide viewer, I will expand a bit more here on some of the images. The Time Travel Marker is worn like a wrist watch and tracks your present locale in the time-space continuum. The Storytelling Machine is quite fascinating. You choose a marble, roll it down a shoot, and when it hits the bottom a story plays out the gramophone. It is also capable of detecting trolls. The Zoopraxiscope is an early version of blending a sewing machine, lantern, and images to produce the first prototype film projector. The Gravity Reduction Instrument reduces an object’s gravity field rendering it weightless. Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron sculpture stands 50-ft high and 120-ft wide, and transports you into any timeframe your heart desires. The Edison Bi-polar Electric Fan will convert your present neurological condition into its reciprocal by 3-minutes of inhalation…or perspiration! And the Steampunk Smartphone is the ancestor to the iPhones and Smartphones of today.
I hope this brief post conveys to you the allure of Steampunk. I am in love with it because of my passion for history, ingenuity, science, and the brilliance of an applied mind for the greater social good. I’m an addict for its zaniness; oh what I would give to go back for a day! Every year the fashion of Steampunk blows my mind – the women’s side is pure romance – a hypnotic side for me I did not delve into this time to my heart’s disappointment. Ah, but I will soon!
Think where we might be (or not be) today had the telegraph, telephone, or AC electricity not been discovered, utilized, and perfected. You wouldn’t be reading this now. Think what we might not be listening to or dancing to had the gramophone or record player not been dabbled with and perfected. Modern America and Europe owe much of their better, healthier, educated lifestyles to the genius of Victorian doctors and scientists. Imagine if Bohr, Newton, Tesla, Einstein or Edison had not asked why over and over, or dreamt what could be and not asked why not. Imagine that we still lived in an age where we are told what to think rather than taught how to think. Steampunk is an artistic expression of that unrestraint with homage to its ancestors.
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” – Albert Einstein
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