Archive for the 'Oddities' Category

Secret Society Paraphernalia and the People Who Manufactured It

Well someone had to be the makers of all the stuff those secret societies require, right?

 

 

From the ever-beloved Atlas Obscura,

 

DeMoulin Museum
“Spanking machines, fake goats, and more devices of humiliation are on display in this museum of fraternal initiation devices

 

Today the DeMoulin family is known as the largest maker of band uniforms in America, but their museum is devoted to their origins as manufacturers of bizarre initiation devices and costumes for a once-booming number of secret societies.

 

The DeMoulin’s odd business of fraternal machinery began in the late 1800s when Ed DeMoulin began working with his men’s group, the Modern Woodmen of America, to begin crafting goats that new members would have to ride as part of their initiation. Ed had previously patented a hilarious “trick camera” that would squirt water at the unknowing subject, so his move into the prank goat industry was a natural fit. The company’s popularity soon grew and other fraternal orders such as the Odd Fellows began looking to the “goat factory” for their goofy initiation needs. Soon the DeMoulins were making spanking machines, lung tester gags, and of course their rocking goats…”

 

For the rest, click here. (Pictures!)

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“The Horrible Trimmings” — The hoard of Edward Gorey

A one-of-a-kind artist who hoarded many one-of-a-kind things.

 

The menacing tassels.

 

by Cara Giaimo for Atlas Obscura,

 

Edward Gorey, Pack Rat

The famous illustrator was a devoted collector of… well, almost everything.

 

“In 1976, Edward Gorey put out one of his trademark works of everyday dread. Called Les Passementeries Horribles, or “The Horrible Trimmings,” the book consists solely of illustrations of enormous, menacing tassels of all shapes. A velvety, tentacled clump looms over a child with a pail. A beaded braid chases a man in a wheelchair.

 

Twenty-four years later—just after the artist’s death—Rick Jones, the director of the Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, was poking around in the building’s garage when he found a small shoebox. He opened it up. “Bingo, it was a shoebox full of tassels,” says Gregory Hischak, the house’s curator. Now dusty and crumbling, each one corresponded with a page in the book. Gorey had held onto his inspiration, years and years after he used it.

 

This wasn’t unusual. When he wasn’t writing, drawing, illustrating, and designing—and even when he was—Edward Gorey was collecting. Over the course of his life, the artist gathered, and kept, everything from tarot cards to trilobites to particularly interesting cheese graters. “We ask the docents not to use the word ‘hoarder,’” says Hischak, grinning as he surveys the House’s newest exhibit, which focuses on Gorey’s pack rat tendencies. “But he really did hoard interesting things.”…

 

For the rest (and more pictures), click here.

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How the British Museum became a cat haven

A lovely little story about some cats and their museum…

 

 

by Nick Harris for the British Museum Blog,

 

The purrrplexing story of the British Museum cats

 

 

This is the story of how the British Museum became a cat haven, and how they eventually came to be on the Museum payroll, thanks in large part to a British Museum cleaner affectionately referred to as the ‘Cat Man’.

 

The British Museum has been open to the public since 1759 – that’s 258 years! That makes it older than Napoleon (we have one of his death masks, which you should definitely check out), older than the steam locomotive, it even predates the entire industrial revolution. But my favourite thing that the Museum is older than? Sandwiches. Definitely sandwiches.

 

Why am I talking about the origin date of sandwiches in a blog about cats? Well they’re related, if not immediately obviously. When you’re a Museum employee, you get access to many of the areas the public aren’t allowed to go into, and this is one of my favourite things about working here. Because those areas are littered with outdated signs and staff notices from the Museum’s history. They frequently make little to no sense at first glance, because what they relate to has long since passed, but if you dig a little deeper, they tend to have fantastic stories attached to them. And there’s one in particular that had me so purrrplexed (sorry), that I had to find out more about it. It reads:

 

 

In my three years of working at the Museum I’ve never even seen a tin of cat food, let alone an actual cat that could be fed in an official or unofficial cat feeding area. In order to sate my cat-like curiosity I started asking some of the longer serving members of staff if they knew anything about the Museum cats.

 

They did. It turns out that between the 1970s and 1990s the Museum had between 4 and 7 cats – depending on what year we’re talking about – kept to deter mice and rats…”

 

For the rest, plus a podcast on this and more photos, click here.

 

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