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.
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.
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.