Eighteenth Century

The Spectrum of Intemperance

Where do you fall on the boozy scale?


Posted By: Paul - Wed Mar 20, 2024 - Comments (2)
Category: Eighteenth Century

The Signature of Button Gwinnett

In the world of signature collecting the "holy grail" is to obtain a signature of Button Gwinnett, a representative from Georgia to the Continental Congress and also a signer of the Declaration of Independence. As explained by Wikipedia:

Gwinnett's autograph is highly sought by collectors as a result of a combination of the desire by many top collectors to acquire a complete set of autographs by all 56 signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and the extreme rarity of the Gwinnett signature; there are 51 known examples, since Gwinnett was fairly obscure prior to signing the Declaration and died shortly afterward. Only ten of those are in private hands. The 1953 Isaac Asimov short story "Button, Button" concerns an attempt to obtain a genuine (and therefore valuable) signature of Gwinnett by means of a device that can move objects through time.

In 2022, a copy sold for $1.4m.

If you're going to build a device to move objects through time, I think you can do better than that.

image source:

Posted By: Alex - Mon Dec 18, 2023 - Comments (0)
Category: Collectors, Eighteenth Century

The Lion of Gripsholm Castle

In 1731, a lion was given as a gift to King Frederick I of Sweden. When it died it was sent to a taxidermist for preservation. Unfortunately, the taxidermist wasn't sure what a lion was supposed to look like, and this was the result:

More info: Design You Trust

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 24, 2023 - Comments (2)
Category: Taxidermy, Eighteenth Century

Lightning Rod Hat

AKA "Le chapeau paratonnerre." Details from Amelia Soth on JStor Daily:

According to the popular science writer Louis Figueir, all the excitement about the new knowledge of electricity led to an odd trend: in his recounting, Paris in the 1770s saw a fad for ladies’ lightning-rod caps, trimmed with metallic thread connecting to a cord that dragged along the ground. The (extremely flawed) theory was that the cord would carry a lightning bolt harmlessly away from the wearer. He also writes of a lightning-rod umbrella proposed by one of Ben Franklin’s acolytes, Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg. The umbrella would be surmounted with a metal pole and trail a silver braid to bear away the charge.

image source: wikimedia

A more recent version of a lightning-rod hat:

Tampa Bay Times - Aug 16, 1975

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jun 21, 2022 - Comments (0)
Category: Headgear, Weather, Eighteenth Century

Mystery Gadget 101

What's it for?

The answer is here.

or after the jump.

More in extended >>

Posted By: Paul - Thu Apr 14, 2022 - Comments (4)
Category: Technology, Eighteenth Century

Buried in Snuff

Margaret Thompson of London was buried on April 2, 1776. Her will directed that her casket should be filled with snuff, and that snuff should be liberally handed out to the crowd at her funeral.

I Margaret Thompson, &c. being of sound mind, &c. do desire, that when my soul is departed from this world, my body and effects may be disposed of in a manner following, &c. &c.—

I also desire that all my handkerchiefs that I may leave unwashed at the time of my disease, after they have been got together by my old and trust servant, Sarah Stuart, be put by her alone, at the bottom of my coffin, which I desire may be large enough for that purpose, together with such a quantity of the best Scotch snuff (in which she knoweth I always had the greatest delight) as will cover my deceased body — and this I desire more especially, as it is usual to put flowers into the coffin of departed friends, and nothing can be so fragrant and refreshing to me as that precious power.

But I strictly charge that no man be suffered to approach my body till the coffin is closed, and it is necessary to carry me to my burial, which I order in the manner following:

Six men to be my bearers, who are well known to be the greatest snuff takers in the parish of St. James', Westminster—and instead of mourning, each to wear a snuff coloured beaver, which I desire may be bought for that purpose, and given them.

Six maidens of my old acquaintance, viz. &c. to bear my pall, each to wear a proper hood, and to carry a box filled with the best Scotch snuff, to take for their refreshment as they go along. Before my corpse I desire the minister may be invited to walk, and to take a desirable quantity of the said snuff, not exceeding one pound; to whom I bequeath two guineas on condition of so doing. And I also desire my old and faithful servant, Sarah Stuart, to walk before the corpse, to distribute every twenty yards, a large handful of Scotch snuff to the ground, and upon the crowd who may possibly follow me to the burial place—on which condition I bequeath her £20. And I also desire, that at least two bushels of said snuff may be distributed at the door of my house in Boyle street.

Source: Euterpeiad, or, Musical Intelligencer & Ladies' Gazette - June 28, 1821

Source: Crazy - But True!, by Jonathan Clements

Posted By: Alex - Sat Mar 05, 2022 - Comments (4)
Category: Death, Eighteenth Century

King Gustav III’s Coffee Experiment

According to what may be legend, King Gustav III of Sweden conducted that country's first clinical trial during the second half of the 18th century. He wanted to determine whether drinking coffee was bad for one's health. He firmly believed it was. The story is told on the website of Sweden's Uppsala University Library:

The king Gustav III viewed coffee consumption as a threat to the public health and was determined to prove its negative effects. It is said that he decided to carry out an experiment on two prisoners. Two twins had been tried for the crimes they had committed and condemned to death. Their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment on the condition that one of the twins drank three pots of coffee every day while the other drank the same amount of tea, and this for the rest of their lives, in order to see if the coffee affected their life expectancy. Unfortunately the king died before the final result of his experiment: the first twin died at the age of 83 and he was the one who drank tea!

Barstow Desert Dispatch - Jan 7, 1991

Wikipedia notes that the authenticity of the coffee experiment story has been questioned. Though it doesn't say why.

As far as I can tell, the earliest English-language reference to the story appeared in a 1937 issue of The Science News-Letter. This account was then widely reprinted in newspapers (see below).

The Science News-Letter attributed the information to the Swedish-born botanist Bror Eric Dahlgren, who was a curator at the Field Museum in Chicago. Dahlgren did author a 1938 pamphlet about the history of coffee, which you can read online at the Biodiversity Heritage Library, but it doesn't include the story of King Gustav. I can't locate where else Dahlgren might have told the story of the coffee experiment, which makes it impossible to check his references.

The Sheboygan Press - May 28, 1938

Posted By: Alex - Thu Sep 23, 2021 - Comments (5)
Category: Experiments, Coffee and other Legal Stimulants, Eighteenth Century

Chief Long Hair

The modern-day Vietnamese man named Tran Van Hay reputedly had hair "over 22 feet long."

Other modern record-holders are in the 18-ft range.

But they can't hold a patch to Chief Long Hair of the Crows.

Itchuuwaaóoshbishish/Red Plume (Feather) At The Temple (born ca. 1750, died in 1836) A Mountain Crow leader during fur trade days and signer of the 1825 Friendship Treaty. Traders and trappers called him Long Hair because of his extraordinarily long hair, approximately 25 feet long. At his death, his hair was cut off and maintained by Tribal leaders.

Now because Long Hair lived before photography, there is no visual record of this. However! Supposedly his tresses are part of the exhibit at Chief Plenty Coups State Park in Montana. (Plenty Coups was a descendant of Long Hair.)

Source of quote.

If any WU-vie is passing by the museum, perhaps he or she can confirm!

Here's a photo of another Crow tribe-member named "Curley."

Posted By: Paul - Thu Jul 30, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Human Marvels, World Records, Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century, Hair and Hairstyling, Native Americans

Jean-Jacques Lequeu, Visionary Architect

Lots of bizarre stuff from this creator, seen at this page, and also here.

And if you're in New York City over the next couple of months, you can visit an exhibit.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Feb 05, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Architecture, Art, Eccentrics, Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century

The Solitude Experiment of Mr. Powyss

Circa 1793, a Mr. Powyss of Lancashire apparently decided to conduct an unusual psychological experiment by paying a man to live in his basement, in complete solitude, for seven years.

Information about this experiment is hard to find. A brief news item appeared about it in 1797:

The Annual Register... for the year 1797

A news story 30 years later reported that the subject of the experiment had emerged after seven years apparently no worse for wear. Or, at least, he had "absolutely accomplished it":

The Casket - Aug 11, 1827

Given the lack of info, I suspect that the entire story might be an urban legend — one of those fake news stories that often made their way into early magazines and newspapers. However, the story has inspired author Alix Nathan to use fiction to fill in the blanks... imagining what might have happened in her recent novel The Warlow Experiment. As reported by the Guardian:

Nathan tried to discover more about Powyss and the outcome of his experiment, but without success. Nothing of either remained. Instead she turned to fiction, writing a pair of short stories that imagined the peculiar undertaking, the first from Powyss’s point of view, “An Experiment: Above”, and then, in “An Experiment: Below”, from the solitary subterranean perspective of his confined subject... Despite this, Powyss and his story continued to nag at Nathan; she could not shake the sense that it “deserved fuller consideration”. The result is The Warlow Experiment [amazon link].

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jul 19, 2019 - Comments (3)
Category: Experiments, Psychology, Eighteenth Century

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Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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