A Shakeup in the Weather

In 1900, Austrian inventor Erwin Perzy was given a challenge by a local physician who wasn’t quite getting the light be needed for his surgeries from Edison’s new-fangled lightbulb. Perzy specialized in designing medical equipment and the surgeon was hoping the inventor could improve upon the design to eek out just a little bit more brightness. Much to the relief, I’m sure, of the many patients facing the surgeon’s blade, Perzy rose brilliantly to the challenge by inventing the snow globe.

Snow globes are kind of oddly fascinating to look at. Image via Pixabay.

Of course, he didn’t exactly do this on purpose. Perzy attempted to increase the amount of reflected light by shining into a glass globe containing water and reflective glitter. The glitter, as it turned out, didn’t float well enough to really work, so he tried semolina flakes instead. That didn’t really work, either, but the whitish flakes swirling around in the globe reminded Perzy of snow and he thought they were kind of pretty.

Next, he did what any inventor would do if he tries to invent something really useful and instead stumbles onto something essentially useless that might make him a lot of money. He filed for the world’s first snow globe (or Schneekugel) patent and began production though the Original Vienna Snow Globe Company which still exists as a Perzy family-run business in Vienna today.

These original Vienna snow globes probably weren’t actually the first the world had ever seen. There is evidence that several years earlier at the 1878 Universal Exposition in Paris a glass company had exhibited something similar as a decorative paperweight. But Perzy is generally credited with the invention, which led to the inventor himself being honored for his accomplishment by Emperor Franz Joseph I, and eventually to Guinness Book of World Records title holder Wendy Suen’s collection of 4,059 snow globes.

That record is from 2016, so by now Ms. Suen’s collection has most likely grown. At least I assume it has since because experience tells me that once word gets out that you’re a collector, it pretty much snowballs (snow globes?) from there. The only thing I know for sure is that she has at least 4,059 more snow globes than I do. But that’s okay, because today I need one about as much as your average physician does who really just wants a little brighter light to illuminate his surgical table.

Ozzie and I agree that this is the best kind of snow globe.

My corner of the world hasn’t received much snow so far this winter season, or it hadn’t before the last day or so when a winter storm worthy of being named Landon by meteorologists came our way. School has been cancelled, activities have been postponed, the grocery shelves have been cleared of eggs, milk, and bread, and the world outside my house has been essentially transformed into a snow globe.

Since I don’t have to be out on the road, I don’t mind at all. I get to just sit back and watch what looks like a big bunch of semolina flakes swirl through the air and settle onto my lawn. And while it’s true that I haven’t been able to use the days for anything as important as improving surgical outcomes, it has been an awfully pretty couple of days for looking out the window.  

15 thoughts on “A Shakeup in the Weather

  1. I don’t have a snow globe either (sadly). And nor does it ever snow for real out my window. When we were small (1950s) we would put cotton wool on our Christmas tree for snow. Now we spray it on. I have no idea why we do such strange things in the antipodean summer!

    1. That is kind of strange. I do hang an ornament on my tree that is Santa surfing, which doesn’t exactly scream Christmas is Missouri. I enjoy the pretty snow as long as it has the decency not to stick around for too long. Actually, the older I get, the better a move to the south and a nice snow globe collection sounds.

  2. I am glad he decided to call it a snow globe and not a “semolina-flake” globe. And thanks to you, Schneekugel has now become my favorite German word. I mean, you can’t say it without smiling!

    1. Agreed. We had a gentle snow shower most of the day after receiving ice and a few inches the previous night. It’s dry and blowing a lot and my kids’ schools have already been called off for tomorrow and the hubs will be working remotely. I suspect the roads are pretty bad, but fortunately we don’t have to go anywhere.

  3. Thanks! We usually get one or two sled-worthy snows per year. That’s plenty of snow for me. I can imagine a day in the not so distant future when I will live somewhere that gets closer to none.

  4. Fascinating origin story. I have been distracted from my Word Press wanderings by other projects. In your case, I have a good excuse because I have been reading White Man’s Graveyard. I am embarrassed that I was unaware of exactly how talented you are.

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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