Snow Globes!

Edwin Perzy I, a man with visions of schneekugeln.

Did you know that snow globes were invented in Vienna?

In 1900, Edwin Perzy, a surgical instruments manufacturer, was trying to use a glass globe to project light.  He filled the globe with water, and then tried adding glass powder to increase the refraction. Instead, he got a snowy effect.

From this experiment, he somehow got the idea of putting a tiny model of his local church, the Mariazeller Kirche, in a globe, with rice powder for snow. And soon after, opened up a business making the schneekugeln, literally “snow balls,” for sale. The same little factory is now owned by Edwin’s grandson, who conducted a tour of the place for a group from the American Women’s Association.

I am not actually that into snow globes.  I mean, they are nice and all, but I mostly enjoy these tours because Austrians are so proud of their handiwork, whatever that might be. It seems to be a national characteristic. From guns, to snow globes, to waste management, it’s not about the money (or at least not all about the money!) It’s all about the care put into the process, and the quality of the product. This is refreshing.

The Vienna Snow Globe Factory and Museum is a nondescript building at the end of the 42 tram line. The museum consists of a couple of rooms filled with various memorabilia from the factory’s history. If you arrange for a tour, you can see the die-making machinery in the back. There is a nice gift shop, to which the women’s group laid siege and departed with considerable booty. The snow globes sell for 6 Euros and up, which, for Vienna, is not expensive. I bought a couple of them as souvenirs.

Please note: for some reason my photo captions do not show up in Google Reader.  So, if you are viewing this post in Reader, click the post title, above, to open the full version and then you can see the captions.

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6 responses to “Snow Globes!

  1. Enjoyed the Snow Globe tour a lot! I am very fond of them, as you know, and have a really nice one that I think came from Austria, though I’m not absolutely sure!

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  2. Snow globes have a special place in my heart. My mother loves and collects them. Her prized treasure was one that I was able to get her when I worked for a local television station. It was a promo item of Arsenio Hall in a santa cap to promote the Arsenio Hall Show. Snow globe obviously lasted longer than the talk show did.

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  3. Hi! Just had to make a quick correction. Snow Globes were NOT invented in Vienna. The Perzy shop is one of the oldest in the world, but there is documentation that snow globes (or waterglobes, or snow storms) were made 20-25 years before Perzy. For example, one of the oldest snow globes can be documented because it was a souveneir when the Eiffel Tower opened in 1889. (One of these surviving snow globes was on display at the Glass Museum in Sandwich Maine, for their 2012 display on the History of Snow Globes.)
    I am a contemporary snow globe artist, with a long interest in snow globe history, so that’s why I know this odd bit of trivia.
    Happy shaking!

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