Various sources report that when Madame de la Bresse died in 1876, she instructed in her will that all her money be used for buying clothes for snowmen. For instance, Bill Bryson shares this anecdote in his 1990 book The Mother Tongue: English & How it got that Way
[The nineteenth century] was an age when sensibilities grew so delicate that one lady was reported to have dressed her goldfish in miniature suits for the sake of propriety and a certain Madame de la Bresse left her fortune to provide clothing for the snowmen of Paris.
Here's a 1955 cartoon about Madame de la Bresse and the snowmen:
The Montana Standard - May 6, 1955
But the earliest source for the story I've been able to find is a 1934 edition of Ripley's Believe it Or Not!
. Which makes me wonder if the story is true, because I'm convinced Ripley invented many of his "strange facts". I can't find any French references to Madame de la Bresse.
However, it's possible Madame de la Bresse and her odd bequest were real, and the best argument for this I've been able to find is made by Bob Eckstein in his The History of the Snowman
. He doesn't provide any sources to verify the existence of Madame de la Bresse, but he does give some historical context that could explain what might have inspired her to want to clothe snowmen:
When noted prude Madame de la Bresse passed away in 1876, she instructed in her will that all 125,000 francs (about $22,500 today) of her fortune were to only be spent putting clothes on the vulgar and offensive naked snowmen in the streets. This bizarre bequest may have had something to do with a certain celebrated snow statue made during the later part of her life in 1870...
The date was December 8, 1870. Snow began to cover Paris. Bored officers threw snowballs, and some of the soldier-artists began to make snow sculptures. Before long, the snowballs became monumental snow statues. One soldier, Alexandre Falguière, channeled his angst of his home city being attacked by creating La Résistance, a colossal snow woman, which was constructed in a mere two to three hours with the help of others.
Although the artist Moulin built a huge snow-bust nearby, it was twenty-nine-year-old Falguière's snow woman that attracted the press to visit the site...
The snow woman was light in the bosom yet clearly blessed with a female face. She had broad shoulders with folded muscular arms and possessed an able-bodied, World Wrestling Federation savoir faire, which suggests Falguière compared the Prussian siege of Paris with the sexual aggression of a relentless female refusing to succumb (La Résistance).
La Résistance by Falguière. Source: wikipedia
So maybe Madame de la Bresse was invented by Ripley. Or maybe she was real and decided to clothe snowmen because she was offended by Falguière's nude snow statue. I'm not sure. Hopefully someone else may be able to shed some light on this mystery!
Ida Helen Jarvis came up with the idea of making pictures out of feathers. She would travel around the world, visiting zoos and aviaries to add to her feather collection. Then she would arrange the feathers to form pictures of landscapes, gluing or stitching the feathers onto a cardboard mat.
She was so taken with this idea that she decided to patent it (Patent No. 1,395,575
, 1921). Included in her patent was the idea of using down to represent foam in a stream of water.
Her feather paintings must have been quite colorful. But unfortunately the only image of one I can find is the black-and-white drawing included with her patent.
Artist Mary Ann Normandin used one of her husband's eyebrows to paint pictures on pinheads. During the 1950s, she got quite a lot of publicity for this. But today she seems to be entirely forgotten. In fact, I can't find any pictures of her paintings.
Asheville Citizen Times - Nov 30, 1952
Boston Globe - Nov 11, 1953
Apparently she completed four pinhead paintings — the Old Man of the Mountain, an Egyptian pyramid, an autumn scene, and a lighthouse — then she gave it up because it was too emotionally and physically demanding. A 1977 article about her work in the Boston Globe
offered some details:
"It took a total of two years and 5000 hours to complete the four earlier paintings. It took me six months alone to learn how to paint between heartbeats. The slightest movement could ruin a painting."
"I started each one of those paintings about 500 times before I finally got it perfect. It wasn't a simple task..."
Her brush was a hair from her husband's eyebrow, which she still keeps in a small container.
"I would paint one thin line, then let it dry," she explained. "Then go on to the next line. The slightest mistake or wrong movement, and the painting was ruined. You'd have to wipe the pinhead clean, and start all over again."
"I completed four paintings, and tried a fifth. It was supposed to be Lincoln, but the paint blistered, and Lincoln ended up looking like Foodini The Magician, a character they had on television years ago."
"You know, I have a nightmare every once in a while. In it, one of my pins is dropped on the floor and rolls into a crack, and I'm unable to find it."
Eight months ago I posted about a coloring book published in 1962 titled The Sing Along with Khrushchov Coloring Book
. I noted that, although I had come across references to the book in newspapers, I hadn't been able to find any images of it online. Nor were there any used copies for sale. And only two libraries in the U.S. had copies of it. It was really
But I was just contacted by Elaine Woodward who revealed that her grandfather, who was on the American Hungarian Federation in DC, had once given her a copy, which she still had. She was kind enough to scan it and send it to me. So here it is, rescued from obscurity!
I've posted two sample images below. Or click here to read the whole thing (pdf file).
Note that the book spells Khrushchev with an 'o' rather than an 'e'... so the title was misspelled in my original post.