People in Victorian England were fanatical about kaleidoscopes

An illustration from 1818, titled "Human Nonsense." (Photo: Public Domain/WikiCommons)

When the kaleidoscope was invented in 1816, it triggered a mania in England. People who couldn't afford their own would pay an enterprising street hustler a penny for a glimpse into the phantasmagorical mirror world. In the illustration above, a gentleman in the street is paying attention to his kaleidoscope instead of the street traffic and collides with a hobby horse rider. One writer of the time called the kaleidoscope one of the "most important inventions and discoveries of our time."

Atlas Obscura has an article about the Victorian kaleidoscope craze, which includes this paragraph about a man who felt betrayed by the device:

A playwright and philosopher in Victorian America, R.S. Dement, recalled the moment he discovered what was inside a kaleidoscope as a child. Writing 61 years after the kaleidoscope had initially been brought to market in the UK, Dement said that he was originally fascinated by the reflections of colors bouncing around in various symmetries; but upon taking the kaleidoscope apart, he discovered nothing but “numerous pieces of colored glass, without symmetry, unsightly in themselves, have no connection with each other and but very trifling value." He felt betrayed, “deceived into believing that what he saw was at least the shadow of something real and beautiful, when in truth it was only a delusion.”

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Strange video improved, still strange


Paul Messing emailed me and said, "I watched the footage Boing Boing had on Facebook yesterday - the dancers from another time and place - and I added some music of mine and edited all so the clip is even more amusing, but no less bizarre."

Thank you Paul! Read the rest

Why do the people look like aliens in this 1895 "gynecological gymnastics" book?


The Public Domain Review came across a 19th century book called Die Heilgymnastik in der Gynaekologie.

As the title implies the gynecological exercises are based on those invented by the Swedish obstetrician and gynecologist, Thure Brandt (1819-1895). Brandt began treating women in 1861, combining massage, stretching, and general exercise as a form of treating gynecological conditions. After his methods were examined in Jena by German gynecologists in 1886, they became widely used in Europe. The images in this particular text are eye-catching today less for the gynecological technique they depict but more the bizarre similarity between the rakishly thin figures employed in demonstrating the exercises (no doubt an attempt to de-sexualise the images) and the figure of the so-called “Grey Alien” – thin body, huge head, large eyes – which wouldn’t hit popular consciousness for another 65 years.

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Weird 1810 illustration with women's bonnets as flowers and men as bees


Artist Amy Crehore came across this odd 1810 illustration after searching Wikimedia for "Females with pink dresses in art." Read the rest

Bizarre illustrations from old men's adventure magazines


Soon after American soldiers returned home from World War II, a new type of magazine was created for them – the man’s adventure magazine. With names like, Peril, Male, Real Men, Men in Conflict, Stag, Man’s Epic, and Man-to-Man, these magazines featured “true” stories about vicious animal encounters, sexually demented Nazis, sadistic communist spies, bloodthirsty headhunters, and whip-cracking women in leather bikinis. The sensationalist articles and outrageously lurid cover art were xenophobic, racist, misogynist, and gratuitously violent. They turned the things readers feared into cartoonish caricatures that could be defeated by a rugged cleft-chinned hero with a torn shirt and a blood-stained bowie knife.

It's A Man's World, edited by Adam Parfrey, is a fascinating coffee table book containing hundreds of covers, depicting everything from Fidel Castro about to snub out his lit cigar on the bosom of a half-clothed damsel in distress, to an absurd weasel attack (cover line: “Weasels Ripped my Flesh”). It includes a history of the magazines showing their origins in “cowboys and Indians” magazines and war propaganda posters, and has profiles and interviews with the journalists and illustrators who cranked out content for the magazines during their heyday of the 1950s - 1970s.

It's A Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps

It's A Man's World by Adam Parfrey (editor) Feral House 2015, 320 pages, 10.9 x 8.5 x 0.7 inches $17 Buy a copy on Amazon

See sample pages from this book at Wink. Read the rest

Absurdly awesome covers from 1930s boys' magazine: The Hotspur


The Hotspur was a boy's story newspaper from Britain that launched in 1933 and featured fantastical covers with giant monsters, robots, and extraterrestrials in conflict with stalwart humans.

[via] Read the rest

If you buy just one 1940s celluloid caterpillar thimble holder

"1940s Celluloid Caterpillar Thimble Holder. US$65.87, 7 bids starting at US$5.00." (Via Notes from a Thimble Psycho) Read the rest

Man ordered to pull donkey in cart


An extraordinary scene took place on Saturday last at a small village within three miles of Middleton. A half-witted fellow named James Driscott had cruelly ill-used his donkey. He was told by several of the villagers that he would be brought up before the magistrates and severely punished; but his informants said that if he consented to do penance for his inhuman conduct, no information should be laid against him. Driscott gladly agreed to the proposed terms. The donkey was placed in the cart, and its owner, with the collar round his neck, was constrained to drag his four-footed servant through the village. The scene is described by a local reporter as being the most laughter-moving one he had ever witnessed. — Illustrated Police News, Jan. 22, 1876

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Creepy 1975 commercial sexualizes babies


"There's one person nobody can resist and that's a baby." Read the rest

Fabulous hats of San Quentin State Prison women inmates


That's Bertha Boronda in the lower left square. I'm not sure if her proud look reflects her satisfaction of having the biggest hat or successfully cut off her unfaithful husband's penis with a straight razor in 1908.

Female inmates of San Quentin State Prison and their very fine hats Read the rest

Women Are Needed: WWII-era U.S. government poster art, 1943.

Women are needed in “hundreds of war jobs.”

Dying Pig - "the most laughable novelty yet produced"

Almost as funny as watching a real pig begin to squeal as he slowly collapses and finally lies down and dies! [via] Read the rest

Beyond the Dark Veil – beautifully macabre collection of Victorian post-mortem photography

Beyond the Dark Veil is a handsome new volume exploring a fascinating, now seemingly macabre death practice. Read the rest

Top 25 weirdest and most inappropriate children's books of all time

I have stacks of children's book, either because I loved them as a kid, bought them for my first two kids, or, as an illustrator, purchased them for the inspiring art.

And now, I'm restocking for our newborn son Aiden.

But once in awhile I'll stumble across something that'll just make me just scratch my head. As in, "What the f**k were they thinking?!" And since I also love to share, here are some highlights ...for you!

Many are just plain crazy, a few have double entendres that might not have been intended, many suffer because innocent words have had a change of meaning over the years, or it could be I'm just snickering because I have a dirty mind.

There also might be a smidgen of sophisticated humor in the selections that follow, but most of the guffaws and titters will fall smack dab in the juvenile category. "Titters"! Hee hee hee!

There are a lot of "funny" children's book cover floating around the internet, but often they've just been photoshopped creations (I'd love to believe that "My Big Book of Pretty Pussies" is real)

So, if I don't actually have a physical copy in my hands, it won't make the cut. As for it being "The Top 25," keep checking back, I'm sure at some point I'll be up to 100!

Top 25 weirdest and most inappropriate children's books of all time

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1893 solution to bicycle-chasing dogs

From The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review, August 1893. Read the rest

Model for a “Creeping Baby Doll” patented in 1871

What child wouldn't want to be surprised by this adorable wax-headed baby doll crawling out from under their bed at 2am?

Creeping Baby Doll (Via Pickover) Read the rest

The greatest toy ever made

There are too many awesome things about this to count. (Via Arcane Images) Read the rest

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