The Victorians were obsessed with natural history, so I get where they were coming from, but creating earrings and pins from the heads of hummingbirds is too much for me. They weren’t only used in jewelry, either: Feathers and entire taxidermied birds of all sorts were used extensively as hat decorations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Millions of birds were slaughtered in North and South America and elsewhere to meet the demand. I saw an image on Twitter recently of an American hat from 1890 that’s in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s a bonnet, and it has three green budgies just sort of stuck to it. The Met has a ton of other hats that also include birds, but in those, the birds are at least a little more artfully arranged so you can see the aesthetic thought behind them. But the budgie bonnet is just awful.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects