Cat photos: not just an internet sensation

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In the 1830s, Sir Charles Wheatstone developed stereoscopy, which is a technique that uses two slightly different images, one seen by the right eye, and the other by the left, to create a three-dimensional experience for a viewer.  His stereoscope used mirrors and drawings, but it was large and bulky.  Over the next half-century, many improvements were made.  David Brewster created the first model with lenses, allowing for a smaller original image and therefore a smaller apparatus.  This model was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and became a favorite of Queen Victoria.  The trend caught on, and in the late 1850s, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., developed a hand-held model which was much more affordable, allowing any middle-class household to own a stereoscope.

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The subject of stereo cards ran the gamut.  Images of travel were popular, like this example from Niagara Falls.

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Images of events were also in high demand.  This image may have been from a US Centennial celebration.

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Hometown scenes, many times of family or residences, were also of interest.  This card shows the Court House in Norristown.

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And certainly the most fun theme was the pun or joke stereo card, as seen with these fashionable cats.

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You didn’t really think Grumpy Cat was the first feline beloved by the American public, did you?

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Celebrate George Washington at HSMC

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When the Historical Society of Montgomery County was founded in 1881, George Washington was declared our “patron saint.”  Our collection holds many books on our first president, particularly on the Battle of Germantown and Valley Forge.

This Sunday at 2:30, Historical Society member and author Rudy Cusumano will present “George Washington: His Rightful Place in History” at the Historical Society headquarters.  Mr. Cusumano with pay tribute to our first president, whom he believes was the greatest military commander and statesman of all time.

Rudy Cusumano taught for many years in the Methacton School District.  His most recent book is The Mock Court Martial of British General Sir William Howe.

Light refreshments will be served including a cake for General Washington’s birthday,  made from Martha Washington’s own recipe.  The Historical Society of Montgomery County is located at 1654 DeKalb Street, Norristown.

Before Pinterest

Have you ever wondered how people wasted their evenings before Pinterest was invented?  Many people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries kept scrapbooks.  The Historical Society has dozens of scrapbooks in its collection, including this one, created by a little girl named Edna Chandler in the 1880’s.

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 Some scrapbook keepers collected newspaper articles or pictures of celebrities.  Little Edna liked pictures of children and babies.  Most of the images are trade cards with pictures on one side of the card and the details of the item being sold on the back.  These pages include advertisements for Heinz Celery Sauce, farm machinery, Day’s Soap, and Dr. Arnold’s Electric Cough Syrup.  In many cases, however, we don’t know what is actually being sold because the cards are pasted down to the page.

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This card was loose in the scrapbook and has no traces of glue. Perhaps Edna was planning on pasting it in later.  In any case, it gives us the rare chance to read the back of the card, which is full of testimonials about Dr. Petzold’s German Bitters.  They could (apparently) cure everything.

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Oral History

Originally practiced by barbers, dentistry became a legitimate medical profession at the end of the eighteenth century.  The Historical Society has a few interesting examples of tools used by dentists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Company was one of the earliest in the country, beginning in 1844 in Philadelphia.  They grew to be the largest dental manufacturer in the world.  This set of tooth forms, housed in the Society collection, was created in the early twentieth century.  The tooth forms were used as molds to create crowns of gold and other metals.

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This set of dental tools was made sometime between the 1830s and 1870s.  They were used by Dr. Charles Powell Harry, a dentist active in Norristown from 1830 onward.  His son, Dr. Charles Howard Harry carried on his business and also used these tools before donating them to the Historical Society.  Each handle is made of mother-of-pearl in the shape of a fishtail, with inlaid garnet and topaz.  The hooked tools are scalers, which scrape calculus from the surface of a tooth, and the flatter tools with a sharp edge are elevators, which assist in tooth extraction.

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Although these look like they’ve come out of a handyman’s toolkit, they’re really meant to be used in your mouth!  These tools date to the 1860s, and were used in North Wales by Dr. William H. Wampole.  The tools are used for extracting teeth, and the designs haven’t changed too much in a century and a half.

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This partial denture was made of porcelain and colored by Jesse C. Green, a resident of Montgomery County, and then put on exhibit at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.

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