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The History of Snow Globes

Snow globes had several different starts. The earliest snow globes were showcased at the 1878 Paris Universal Exposition. They were created by a local glassware firm and featured water-filled globes decorated with little men holding umbrellas and white powder that imitated snow. Then in 1889, a souvenir vendor debuted tiny snow globes featuring miniature ceramic versions of the just-unveiled Eiffel Tower during that year’s Paris Universal Exposition. In 1900, Erwin Perzy I accidentally created a snow globe while trying to improve upon dim electric lightbulbs. Perzy learned that shoemakers often filled glass globes with water and placed them in front of candles to create tiny spotlights. He tried this method but added semolina flakes to the globes, hoping that the light would bounce off of them. The experiment didn’t yield good results, but the effect reminded him of snowfall. Perzy decided to create a tiny replica of the Basilica of the Birth of the Virgin Mary in Mariazell, Austria, placed it in his water-filled globe along with the flakes, and mounted the globe to a gypsum base, creating a full-fledged snow globe, which he patented in 1900. He and his brother then helped popularize snow globes as souvenirs at their Vienna shop,  Original Wiener Schneekugel Manufaktur, which still exists today. However, because Perzy was an artisan, his snow globes were handcrafted and therefore neither affordable nor mass-produced. In 1927, American Joseph Garaja patented a liquid-filled novelty paperweight, which he created using a new snow globe manufacturing technique of assembling each one underwater to ensure they were entirely filled. This opened the door for the mass-production of snow globes and in the 1930s, a New Jersey entrepreneur named William Snyder began selling affordable snow globes. However, snow globes didn’t truly take off until they were featured in the 1940 Ginger Rogers film, Kitty Foyle. The next year, Citizen Kane also featured a snow globe (manufactured by Perzy’s company, in fact). Soon, snow globes became popular advertising vehicles for many companies, and by the 1950s, innovations in plastics and manufacturing allowed for the cheap production of many snow globes at once. Notably, these production practices weren’t always safe, and polluted or poisonous liquids were sometimes used in snow globes. Still, they remained popular and in fact, snow globes are still sought-after today, particularly by collectors.

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