Steampunk inspiration and resources

Posts tagged “Travel

The Tower Bridge Part 2: The Exhibition

View from the Tower BridgeVisiting the bridge and looking at the outside is of course free, but visiting The Tower Bridge Exhibition within has a small fee. Visitors begin by going up into the top of the north tower where there is a short introductory video with a screen that blends into the Victorian era props around it. Afterwards you get to move into the tower and enjoy the historical and artistic exhibits on the East and West Walkways. I can’t say that the walkway exhibits were the highlight, but there was some interesting information about the history of bridge construction for “how does it work?” types. (You should go to their website for more info on what exhibits are currently on view.)

They recently installed glass floors on the West Walkway, but this was shortly after my visit in September 2014 so I didn’t get a chance to experience this aspect of the bridge. I can only imagine the incredible view onto the bustling street below, but I can vouch for the panoramic views of the city from the top of the towers!

But for me, the best was yet to come. As part of your exhibition admission, you also get to visit the engine room that used to power the raising of the bridge. So check out The Tower Bridge Part 3: The Inner Workings next time!


The Tower Bridge Part 1: The Outside

Tower Bridge 1Due to increased commercial activity along the Thames in the 19th century, the city of London needed to create bridges to allow access to both sides of the river without hindering the approach of tallships like the Cutty Sark (see above). To accomplish this goal, a committee was formed in 1877 to decide on a design for either a tunnel below the river or a bridge that allow traffic to cross over the water. More than 50 designs were considered before Sir Horace Jones’ hydraulic drawbridge was chosen in 1884, which took 10 years to complete. You can see some of the design submissions here.

Though the bridge has two towers built on foundations sunk deep in the river bottom, the name Tower Bridge comes from the nearby Tower of London. The bridge gets its strength from a steel skeleton, but the designers also used Portland stone across the facade to add a cosmetic touch.


The Leadenhall Market

IMG_1754The site of this market has been a trade center in London dating back to the Roman period, but its current visage was constructed in 1881. Like the Hay’s Gallery, it is enclosed by an amazing wrought iron and glass ceiling, which shelters the various shops and bars within. The Victorian redesign of the original stone marketplace was by none other than Horace Jones, the Architect and Surveyor of the City of London from 1864 to 1887. Though he is best known for the Tower Bridge, Jones was responsible for several markets around the city. Unfortunately most of them have been destroyed, damaged or moved in the century that followed.

I passed through the Leandenhall Market complex on a weekday at happy hour, and many of the city’s well-dressed businessmen were enjoying an after-work cocktail near the main intersection of this pedestrian area. I wandered around some of the side streets and also found an incredible hanging sculpture made out of books that look like they are flying around the halls. On a side note, The Leadenhall Market has appeared in several films, including as the access point for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Like what you see? Check out my posts about The Sherlock Holmes Museum, The London Museum of Water and Steam, and The Tower Bridge!


Cosplay at the Asylum: The Costume Contest

IMG_1828You should have been there. The buzz in the ballroom was happy and excited as the DIY models assembled to strut their stuff for a very appreciative audience. I had hoped to get a seat at the end of the runway, but even 10 minutes before the show started it was difficult to find any empty floor space at all, so I had to settle for sitting on the floor seat near the stage. I hope you enjoy the gallery of photos as much as I enjoyed being there, and I also got a chance to shoot a quick video of the models’ final procession right before the judges made their decision.


Want to Learn About Jack the Ripper? Skip the Tour.

On display at the Museum of London

On display at the Museum of London

My original plan had been to sample at least two Ripper Tours while in London, but after running into 6 other tour groups on my maiden voyage, I decided it wasn’t necessary. The groups ranged from 12 members to more like 40, and they all (unsurprisingly) were stopping at the same places. One group was headed up by a vintage bobby, my guide was in waistcoat and hat, and others were dressed in normal street clothes.

I knew there would be at least a couple other groups around but this was nuts, especially considering there was hardly anything to see. That area of London had suffered a great deal during the London Blitz of WWII, so there weren’t really any historic buildings left standing, so the tour meant walking through a long street lined with curry restaurants and maneuvering around construction zones. By about 30 minutes in, the Mister and I were joking that we should have just stopped at the beginning for curry instead.

I was on a tour using what they called “Ripper Vision” and some large historical photographs to try to enhance the experience, but it still fell flat for me. Ripper Vision consisted of a handheld projector that the guide used to show photos of the victims and newspaper stories from the Ripper days, but he couldn’t keep the projector steady so I ended up actually feeling sea sick from all the jerking around and had to look away. The guide was well-versed in Ripper lore, but without any real sites that still looked like they did during the Victorian era, it definitely could have been a lecture in a hall and saved my feet the trouble.

If you want to learn about Jack, I’d say get a book. I’ll be writing a Jack the Ripper Steampunk Sourcebook article for my ezine which will be available around Christmas time, and will not only look at the history and mystery surrounding the murders, but also Jack’s appearances and role in Steampunk so far.

Have you ever read any Steampunk fiction or seen any good movies that featured Jack the Ripper? Do tell!


More Clockwork Treasures from the Royal Observatory

One of the biggest leaps forward in human history was when we started to use the movements of the stars, sun and moon to tell time. And as far as we know, we are the only animals that do. You may find yourself noticing a slight bend in space and time as you approach the Observatory, or perhaps it was just the long trek up the steep hill that made the minutes seem like hours!

Eventually, humans invented machines to keep track of the units in which we divided the world and some would argue that these machines now rule our lives. But no matter how you feel about clocks and schedules, you can’t deny the ingenuity and skill that has gone into inventing, improving and crafting timepieces. And if you are a steampunk fan, you probably can’t get enough of the shiny gears and complex mechanisms that had their heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Prime Meridian GlobeThe Royal Observatory (also called the Greenwich Observatory) is the home of the Prime Meridian line, and the site for calculating Greenwich Mean Time since the 19th Century. This means that even more than anywhere else it has been imperative that they keep accurate time, and they celebrate this history in their exhibits. After I was done at the Longitude Punk’d galleries, I took a stroll through the rest of the Observatory and I found amazing machines for seeing the stars and terrific time-keepers. I had accidentally used up a lot of my battery during the first half of the day at Longitude Punk’d and the Cutty Sark, but even with a full battery I don’t know if I would have been able to fit all of the beautiful pocket watches, nautical devices and astrolabes onto my memory card anyway!

Here’s a sampling of what there is to see in the history galleries.

In addition to the Observatory, you can also visit the Astronomy Center for free. There are lots of exhibits there for amateur astronomers, as well as London’s only planetarium.

Have you ever visited the Royal Observatory or Astronomy Center? Did you have a favorite part?


Mechanical Marvels at the National Museum of Scotland

The Mister and I stumbled upon this amazing museum totally by mistake. We had just escaped the crowd on the Royal Mile after picking up our tickets for Fringe and were looking for a quieter place to look at the map. We soon found ourselves on the stone steps outside the National Museum of Scotland with a few hours to kill before our first show. A few hours wasn’t nearly enough!

The first visit was spent mostly in the ancient history section, but we went back a second day to check out the rest of the historical and industrial arts exhibits. If you are a fan of steam engines, elaborate clockwork, intricate model ships and all manner of shiny things, don’t miss this stop if you find yourself in Edinburgh. The museum recently underwent a massive renovation, but the largest gallery dates to the Victorian era and calls to mind the pictures I have seen of the Crystal Palace.

I hope you enjoy the gallery of photos below. (Click on any picture to see a them in a different view).

Have you ever visited this museum? Did you have a favorite part?

Leave a comment below!


Review: Victorian Vices at Ed Fringe 2014

The Durham-based company, Another Soup, has two back-to-back shows this year at the Space on Niddry St. Both are promenade musicals, meaning that the actors move in and out of the audience to give them an immersive experience. I have never seen a show like these before and I thought the approach was interesting, though better suited to Sweeny Todd and the String of Pearls than to a Picture of Dorian Gray. In Sweeny Todd, the ‘ladies of the night’ and other patrons of Mrs. Lovett’s shop wend their way through the audience going through purses and trading hats with members of the crowd, which was engaging and silly fun during a tale of gruesome murders. But the side characters in Dorian Gray were aristocrats (though similarly gin-soaked by the end) which didn’t lend itself to the same treatment, and the larger crowd made it difficult for a short person stuck in the middle of the pack (ie, me) to see most of the action.

The lighting situation was also more favorable to Sweeny Todd, and faces were never lost behind the shadows of the audience, where Dorian Gray could have benefited from even one light in Dorian’s chambers when tall patrons between the single bank of lights and the small but lovely set sometimes totally obliterated the well-executed efforts of the cast. The audience is expected to stand and move about during the shows, as well as occasionally dancing with the actors, something I wish I had known before spending the whole day at the National Museum of Scotland and then seeing the shows one after the other. By the time I got home my feet were killing me! So be prepared if you are planning to see them both. (People with health issues are welcome to sit during the performances but they will definitely miss some of the action.)

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

So let’s take them one at a time.

Sweeny Todd and the String of Pearls is adapted from a serialized tale called The String of Pearls: A Romance, which took place in 1785 and was first published as a serial in 1846-47. The story has been adapted for stage and screen many times over, but in case you aren’t familiar with it, here’s the short version. Sweeny Todd is a barber on Fleet Street in London. He kills his victims (sometimes through breaking their necks and sometimes giving them too close a shave with his straight-edge razor) and then disposes of the bodies by giving them to his neighbor, Mrs. Lovett, to bake into meat pies at a time when meat is very scarce in the darker corners of the city. In Another Soup’s version, the story takes place in the 1850s during the Great Stink and the Cholera epidemic of 1858 but the main plot is still the same. Depending on the adaptation, Todd and Lovett are business partners, friends or lovers, and in this version they are most decidedly the latter, sometimes carrying on their affair while the main action of the show takes place elsewhere. It is Todd’s affection for Mrs. Lovett, who commits the first two murders, that leads him to help her with the cover up and makes him her “supplier” for her meat pies. Business is booming so Lovett needs an assistant, which eventually leads to their discovery and downfall.

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

The music was played by a live band including an accordian that sometimes was in the thick of it with the actors. The enthusiasm of the cast was infectious and the singing was well blended and balanced. I enjoyed having the sound come from all around me when the actors were sprinkled throughout the crowd. Todd and Lovett were very well cast and did a splendid job, as did the playful smaller parts. Unfortunately, if you are right next to the band you lose a lot of the lyrics, which were in general much stronger writing than the dialog. The music is clearly the focus of the show, but when the actors don’t have mics it can be hard to follow.

For the best experience, I would suggest that you stand near the corner of the room where the two sets come together so you can get the most out the singing but still hear the music clearly. Be prepared to move during the show and come back together in a different configuration. I loved this aspect because it allowed people who had not had as good of a vantage point in the beginning to see more of the show later. So even if you start out at the back, be patient and you will get a chance to see, plus more of a chance to interact with the side characters. The crowd for this show was smaller than for Dorian Gray, and I think the group of 30 or so in the audience is the right size for the venue.

_2014VICTORK_AJXAfter about a 30 minute break where we rested our feet by sitting on the stone steps outside, we went back in for round 2. The Picture of Dorian Gray was the first show I found on the Ed Fringe docket to write about for Victorian and Steampunk inspiration and I was the most excited to see it. Sweeny Todd I had seen as a musical before, but never Dorian Gray and I was intrigued. The story centers on Dorian, a lovely youth seduced by the delectable debaucheries of the Victorian age, his mentor, Lord Henry Wotton, and the painter of his portrait, Basil Hallward. Upon seeing his portrait, he wishes that he could always stay as young and beautiful as it is, and in wishing makes a pact with the devil. Dorian falls in love with an actress, but later rejects her when she wants to quit the stage, which leads to her suicide. When he later looks at the portrait, it has changed and started to become ugly to reflect the decay of his soul while he remains the same.

The three main male roles were perfectly cast, though I think the strain of so many performances was starting show in their voices (and who can blame them!). The music and especially the female chorus voices were lovely (and the “sisters” steal the show), though they sometimes overpowered the male soloists who were singing very low in their ranges, which makes it harder to project in a room without very good acoustics. They were all very true to their roles and stayed in character, even when I saw one audience member start to giggle in Henry’s face during a dramatic moment in the closing number. So, well done to the cast for making the most of a less than ideal situation.

The crowd was larger, and I think on the whole taller, which meant I could not see nearly as well as during the first show. At least half of the action takes place right in front of the band, and so directly in front of a bank of stage lights which also made it harder to see. I would love to see this show again staged as a traditional musical where I could get all the action from start to finish. (I think the best place to stand for this one is near the free-standing gas lights on the near wall as you enter the space.) Because I knew the basic story already (though I haven’t read the original yet) I wasn’t surprised by the turns of events, but I didn’t feel that the dialogue did enough to move Dorian from one stage of his thinking to another. I would have liked to see him first fall in love with his painting and then become jealous rather than his first reaction to be disdainful. I also liked that the homosexual undertones were brought to the forefront, but I found the scene where Dorian and Basil kiss to feel strange and I expected to see Basil more swept up and given hope rather than saddened. But on the whole the acting was very good even if the actors made different choices than I would have.

If you only choose one Victorian Vices show to see, I would say go with Sweeny Todd for the dynamic staging and charismatic Todd and Lovett. Dorian Gray was very well done, it just didn’t work as well in the space. If you have comfy shoes, they are great to see back-to-back for a great night of entertainment. The soundtracks for both shows will be available soon, and I highly recommend them!

Both shows are running from now until the 23rd, so don’t miss your chance to taste a little vice.

Get tickets here: tickets.edfringe.com

Learn more about Another Soup at their website: www.anothersoup.co.uk


Review: Jekyll and Hyde at Ed Fringe 2014

Jekyll and Hyde is in the “Dance, Physical Theater and Circus” section of the Ed Fringe catalog and I think that is an apt descriptor. When I think of a dance performance, I think of lots of movement, lots of music and little to no speaking. This show, on the other hand, is a fully scripted hour-long play that uses dancerly movements to punctuate the emotions, relationships and of course, the transformation of Henry Jekyll’s world. There is only a little bit of dub-step music when Jekyll is on his benders, and the rest of the dancing is done in line with the dialog.

The story is set in the present and deals not with the original Jekyll character’s desire to extricate his other half, but centers around his desire to treat mental illness. He has anxiety attacks himself, but it is his sister’s crippling agoraphobia and memories of his mother’s condition that drives his research and eventual self-testing of a drug. In my review of the book The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde I said that one thing that remained constant through all of the adaptations I had see was that Jekyll transforms into another person, Hyde. In this show, however, Hyde is a person only Jekyll can see who wields power over Jekyll’s movements and can send him crawling across the floor or paralyzes, leaving him watching helplessly as he murders.

I thought this show was absolutely great. I highly recommend it! The whole Headlock Theatre company did a wonderful job, and both Jekyll (Nathan Spencer) but especially Hyde (Tom Boxall) were totally brilliant. You can learn more about them here: headlocktheatre.co.uk/.

Get tickets: tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/jekyll-and-hyde

But here’s a tip: make sure you sit in the first few rows of the theater. The stage is not raised, so even at 4 rows from the front we lost a lot of the floor work behind the heads of those in front of us. Sitting close to the stage and off to the side is better than being in the center and farther back. Also, don’t forget to look up! The ceiling of the theater in Merchant’s Hall is a magnificent piece of 19th century architecture.

And if you’re lucky, you might run into the friendly cast at the Jekyll and Hyde bar down the street like I did. The atmosphere was dark, but the people were all having a great time so it was really a fun place to stop by. I especially loved the bathrooms hidden behind a false wall of books, and the variety of chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. (Click on any photo to see larger pics)


My Bags are Packed, I’m Ready to Go

Well, it took no small amount of sweat and tears (though thankfully no blood) to get ourselves ready for our year abroad starting with Steam Tour. It feels surreal to finally be doing something I have been talking about so long, but here I am in the Boston airport cooling my heels between flights. The next 28 hours or so will be spent in transit and I can’t wait to pull into the Edinburgh station and the fun part of traveling can begin!

Wish me luck!

image


Gearing up for Steam Tour: Weekend at the Asylum

I think I may have just snapped up the last affordable room in all of Lincoln last night as I made my arrangements for Europe’s largest Steampunk Convivial, Weekend at the Asylum. If you were thinking about going but you are still on the fence, make sure to get your tickets ASAP! They sold out of the Saturday only wristbands in the last day or so, and the Empire Ball was already sold out weeks ago. I am sorry to miss the ball, but I did get tickets for Lady Elsie’s Fashion Gala (a formal fashion show followed by dancing and socializing) as well as a burlesque event so your favorite Steampunk Roving Reporter will be able to bring you plenty of shenanigans well into the evening during the convention, which runs Sept 12-14. I will be tweeting and posting all weekend, which is also the last weekend of Steam Tour.

The website for the event run by the Victorian Steampunk Society is woefully short of details, but you can get event descriptions and buy tickets here.

Going to be at convention and want to meet, and maybe even pick up youth very own airship bumper sticker? Leave me a comment and we’ll be in touch!

Bumper Sticker to go with my Steampunk Zine!

Bumper Sticker to go with my Steampunk Zine!

 


Gearing up for Steam Tour: My Steampunk Edinburgh Fringe Fest Itinerary!

Profile pics 056-001I admit it, I am actually wiggling in anticipation of how awesome Steam Tour is going to be. I booked all my shows for Ed Fringe, ordered my Britrail pass and I am dreaming of all the delicious pub grub in my future.

So here’s the plan for week 1:

 

 

 

_2014JEKYLLH_T7_thumb۞ Jekyll and Hyde
Main Theatre @ Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall
Headlock Theatre

  • Sat 9 August, 21:30

And after the performance, let’s meet up for a cocktail at the Jekyll and Hyde Pub nearby! I’ll wear my goggles so you can find me, and I’ll bring some “My Other Beep Beep is a Whoosh” airship stickers along for purchase, just one pound per awesome bumper sticker to show off your steamy side 🙂

Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls۞ Victorian Vices – Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls
Niddry – theSpace Above @ theSpace on Niddry St
Another Soup

  • Mon 11 August, 18:00

_2014VICTORK_AJX۞ Victorian Vices – The Picture of Dorian Gray
Niddry – theSpace Above @ theSpace on Niddry St
Another Soup

  • Mon 11 August, 20:00

 

۞ Whisky Tasting
Bennet’s Bar @ Bennets Bar
Bennets Bar

  • Tue 12 August, 14:00

Dolls of New Albion۞ Dolls of New Albion: A Steampunk Opera
Venue 45 @ theSpace @ Venue45
Clockwork Hart Productions

  • Tue 12 August, 22:45

 

 

 

_201421STCEN_P3۞ 21st Century Poe: Moyamensing
The Vault @ Paradise in The Vault
Marty Ross

  • Wed 13 August, 17:50

۞ City of the Dead Haunted Graveyard Tour
Outside St. Giles Cathedral @ Black City of the Dead Signs
Black Hart Entertainment

  • Wed 13 August, 21:00

NPG Ax27656,Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle,by; published by Herbert Rose Barraud; Eglington & Co.۞ Arthur Conan Doyle Experience
The Sanctuary @ Arthur Conan Doyle Centre
Arthur Conan Doyle Centre

  • Thu 14 August, 14:00 (x2)

 

 

 

 

_2014MORGANW_PV۞ Morgan & West: Parlour Tricks
KingDome @ Pleasance Dome
Corrie McGuire for Objective Talent U

  • Thu 14 August, 19:00

 

۞ Dorian
Upstairs @ Greenside @ Nicolson Square
The Egg Theatre Company

  • Fri 15 August, 10:20

_2014DRACULB_PN۞ Dracula
Pleasance Beyond @ Pleasance Courtyard
Action To The Word

  • Fri 15 August, 21:20

And in addition to the various performances and lectures, there are also several art shows that I can’t wait to check out including Urban Twist: Papercut Artwork and Craft Scotland Summer Show.

 


Gearing up for Steam Tour: The Arthur Conan Doyle Experience

NPG Ax27656,Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle,by; published by Herbert Rose Barraud; Eglington & Co.Arthur Conan Doyle Experience is a talk about Edinburgh’s famous son, delivered in a magnificent example of an original Victorian town house which commemorates this great man of literature. Author of Sherlock Holmes – but what else is he famous for?

 

Category Spoken Word
Genres True-life, Historical
Group Arthur Conan Doyle Centre
Venue Arthur Conan Doyle Centre ​
Event Website www.arthurconandoylecentre.com
Date Aug 12, 14, 19, 21, 26
Time 14:00
Duration 1 hour
Suitability 16+
Country of Origin United Kingdom – Scotland

Get more info at the Edfringe website.


Gearing up for Steam Tour: Morgan and West Magicians

Morgan & West: Parlour Tricks »

Category Comedy
Genres Magic, Cabaret
Group Corrie McGuire for Objective Talent
Venue Pleasance Dome
Times 19:00
Suitability U
Duration 1 hour

_2014MORGANW_PVTime travelling magic duo Morgan and West present a brand new show chock full of jaw-dropping, brain-bursting, gasp-eliciting feats of magic. The dashing chaps offer up a plateful of illusion and impossibility, all served with wit, charm and no small amount of panache. Be sure to wear a hat – Morgan and West might just blow your mind. ***** (ThreeWeeks). Buxton Fringe Comedy Award Winner 2013.

more »

Here is a taste from their youtube channel.


Steampunk Sourcebook: The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty, or Liberty Enlightening the World as it is really titled, is among the most iconic landmarks our little blue and green sphere has to offer. My favorite day of my NYC vacation was the one we spent on boats going around the bay and to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. I thought I knew the whole story of this copper colossus, but I learned some great stuff during my visit.

So where did that big green lady come from?

It all started in France. Ostensibly, the statue was a way to mark the friendship between the US and France, and to acknowledge the love of liberty they shared. In reality, it was a resounding raspberry directed at the leadership in France, Napolean the Third. Nap III, as I like to call him, was actually elected to the presidency through a popular vote, but when he was told he could not run for a second term he led a coup and got himself kingafied like his dear old uncle before him. So this huge investment in time and resources was a metaphorical middle finger to Nap III and his total bulldozing of liberty as much or more than a nice gesture to the US. She is facing France directly, her unwavering gaze falling on the very people who, in the eyes of the project directors, were violating liberty the most.

The projected completion date was 1876 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of American independence, but it hit a few hiccups along the way and it was not actually erected until 10 years after the original goal date. As you can imagine, creating a statue that not only measures over 300 feet tall take a lot of engineering imagination, but this statue also had to be able to travel across the ocean and be reassembled on the other side. As an added challenge, the US was in charge of making the pedestal, so the French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi couldn’t know exactly what to expect when he reached Liberty Island. The torch-bearing forearm of Lady Liberty made an appearance at the 1876 in Philadelpia, and was then displayed in Madison Square Garden until 1882, and the head was a part of the Paris World’s fair in 1878.

bartholdi fountainIn addition to Bartholdi, whose Bartholdi Fountain can still be seen in the US Botanical Garden, such notables as Joseph Pulitzer and Gustave Eiffel also were involved in the construction. Pulitzer was integral to the fundraising effort to complete the base and got the funds by advertising the chance to get your name in the newspaper for any size contribution to the cause. At that time, newspapers were a fairly new commodity, and hundreds of thousands of people sent in their pennies to see their names in print. Eiffel was brought in to assist Bartholdi with the huge feet of engineering the skeleton for the statue, and he created a structure that not only could support the weight of the copper sheets that made up her skin, but would also allow it to expand and contract with the change in seasonal temperatures as well as sway slightly in the high winds of New York’s harbor.

There are many more statues on Liberty Island than just the lady herself. Phillip Ratner created a series of Rodin-like bronzes commemorating those men and women who contributed the most to the completion of the monument.

When the statue was finally ready for its inauguration only men were allowed to attend the ceremony. Angry ladies commissioned boats and led a protest at sea during the event. This is especially ironic given that the famous poem, The New Colossus, was written by a female poet, Emma Lazarus. It was written and donated as part of the fundraising campaign for the pedestal, and now graces the pedestal itself. But Emma herself was barred from attending.

Here is the poem:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I have run across one reference in Steampunk literature so far to the statue of liberty as seen by dirigible in The Girl in the Clockwork Collar (Steampunk Chronicles 2). Have you run across any in your Steampunk wanderings? Let me know so I can add them to this post.

Enjoy this gallery of the statue as it was being built, as it appears today and with some fun variations by different artists. If I am missing a credit and you know who did a particular piece, please let me know!

 

 

 


Wind and Steam: Transportation and Transitions in New York City

NYC Day 1 064

New York City was the beating heart of trade in the United States when the Western world transitioned from the Golden Age of Sailing to the height of steam power. Not long after steamboats started taking passengers (1807) they were scuttling alongside tallships in the New York Bay. There are still a few sailing ships around the bay and the Hudson River today, but they mostly share the waterways with gas-powered yachts and ferries nowadays.

I took a few ferries during my vacation, and anyone who visits the Big Apple should make sure to do the same. It was my favorite part of the whole trip and it afforded some amazing views of the skyline that you can’t get any other way.

There’s no way to think about transitions in the harbor without considering the huge number of people who passed through it in order to begin a new life in the United States. Starting in 1820, the city of New York opened an immigration station at a converted fort. Around 11 million people passed through Castle Garden between 1820-1892, but it closed that year because the first federal immigration checkpoint had just been completed. I am referring of course to the US’s most famous point of entry, Ellis Island. This little island is technically in New Jersey and was doubled in size before the checkpoint was built, mostly by using the dirt displaced by the construction of the New York subway system.  The original wooden structures on Ellis Island burned down in a mysterious fire about 5 years after opening, but the beautiful brick structure you still see today was completed around 1900.

Antique trunks on Ellis Island

Antique trunks on Ellis Island

I was really looking forward to my visit there and a chance to get some pics of antiques in the recreated tenements, but unfortunately hurricane Sandy ruined the climate control system so most of the museum-type objects had been moved off-site to protect them. As a Museum Studies person I can totally respect the decision, but as a tourist I was really annoyed. The whole first floor contains the Immigration Museum (est 1900), which is cool for adults who are willing to read a lot and look at timelines, but there is not much in terms of interactive or hands-on things for kids (or ADD adults).

Embarkation at Waterloo Docks, circa 1850

Embarkation at Waterloo Docks, circa 1850

One of the biggest influences on the shipping of humans and goods across the Atlantic was the institution of scheduled trips. I know, that sounds silly, but before the war of 1812, ships tended to leave port whenever they had gotten enough cargo or passengers to make it worth their while. This meant that capricious captains could delay people and goods for weeks at time, which was hardly the cause of consumer confidence. But, post-war some captains starting using a set schedule, which made traveling by sea easier and more reliable than ever before.

When the cargo arrived in New York City, it certainly didn’t stop there. The first reliable steam-powered land locomotive was invented by George Stephenson in 1814. Railways had been used for decades before that, but the carts were always pulled by animals. After his invention of the “Iron Horse”, mass transit by rail became possible on a hitherto unimaginable scale. Even locally the trains made a huge difference, linking the five burrows of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island, which facilitated their incorporation into a single city in 1898. And at the center of it all is Grand Central Station.

“Railroads brought people, profits…and pollution. Residents complained. So in 1854 the city banned soot-belching steam engines below 42nd Street, keeping them far from New York’s populated heart. Trains arriving from the north unhitched their engines at 42nd and towed passenger cars the last few miles downtown by horse.

Despite these restrictions, the Hudson, New Haven, and Harlem Railroads were eager to expand. To coordinate their services (and save money) they agreed to share a new transit hub. With 42nd Street the southern limit for steam engines, it was the logical station location.

Grand Central Depot opened in 1871. Three towers represented the three participating railroads. Thirty years later, a new Annex doubled the Depot’s size. But double wasn’t enough. Rail traffic had quadrupled.”

Read more at the online exhibit by the New York Transit Museum called Grand by Design.

But where is the Statue of Liberty in this post?! No worries, she gets one all to herself next time!

 

 


My Visit to NYC’s Central Park

You didn’t think I’d visit New York City and all you would get is one picture of the statue of Liberty, did you? Over the next few posts I will share some steam-era highlights from my trip last week. Enjoy!

Central Park

“Central Park, the first major landscaped public space in urban America, was created in the 1850s as an antidote to the turbulent social unrest, largely as the result of the country’s first wave of immigration, and a serious public health crisis, caused by harmful environmental conditions. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the winners of the 1858 design competition for Central Park, along with other socially conscious reformers understood that the creation of a great public park would improve public health and contribute greatly to the formation of a civil society. Immediately, the success of Central Park fostered the urban park movement, one of the great hallmarks of democracy of nineteenth century America.” http://www.centralparknyc.org/about/history.html

(Click on any image to open a gallery of larger images)

NYC Day 1 007For me, the most striking thing about Central Park were the gigantic boulders. I only got to explore about 1/3 of the park, but everywhere you turned there they were, glittering in the sun. This is clearly the part of the island that wasn’t a swamp when the park was built in the 1850s.

And in addition to all of the shiny scenery, the famous Tavern on the Green restaurant (est 1870s) can also be found on the edge of Central Park. The last time I visited NYC I was a kid and we ate there, and the only thing I can remember is that my dessert was a tiny house made of cake that sat at the edge of a raspberry drizzle pool. I was captivated! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to eat there on this trip because of some ill-timed building maintenance, but we made do at a lovely cafe in the heart of the park instead. The Tavern has a gorgeous interior that I was not able to photograph, but you can see a great gallery on their website.

Central Park from the roof of the Met

Central Park from the roof of the Met

I realized I was making this gallery that it looks like I went back to the park numerous times because of how much the sky changes between shots, but all of these photos were taken in about a 6-hour period my first full day on the trip. The sky steadily darkened as the day went on and on our way home we got completely soaked trying to flag down a taxi. We had spent the second half of the day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (opened to the public in 1870), and I had an amazing cocktail on the roof just before the rain started composed of mint and cucumber syrup, muddled basil and gin. I am not usually a gin fan but it was the perfect way to refresh after trekking all through Central Park!

Next up, Grand Central Station…

 


Gathering Resources

Now that Steam Tour is officially on, I have started to gather resources for my research and articles. I just bought The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories for the ghost stories article, and I combed the free ebook collection on my Surface and found over 30 classic sci-fi books, including all of the H. G. Wells scientific romances. I also just got confirmation that my copy of Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes: A Regency and Steampunk Field Guide has shipped. Here is the description from Amazon:

Get ready to step into the back alleys of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens’s London, and explore the alternative worlds of Steampunk in this new guide book by fantasy author Krista D. Ball.

Ball takes readers on a fascinating journey into the world of the Have-Nots, and explores the bustling, crime-ridden London during the Georgian and Victorian eras. Discover the world of knocker-uppers (it’s not what you think), mudlarks, and costermongers. Learn how to scrub floors and polish knives, pick for bones, and catch rats. Learn about race and social status, and the difference between a lady’s maid and a scullery maid.

With her usual wit, insight, and snark, Ball gives historical, romance, and Steampunk authors the tools to create vibrant, realistic worlds. Whether you’re an author, a Janeite, or just a fan of history, Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes gives you a fresh look into the dark past.

I am looking for any suggestions for other reference books about the Victorian era or must-read ghost stories, so if you have found a great book or website on your own Steampunk journey please don’t hesitate to share!


Steam Tour Featured on StoryWorld

I’m on my way out the door to visit Madame Tussaud’s wax museum here in NYC, but I wanted to share that the writing website Story World interviewed me about Steam Tour!

You can check it out here. 🙂