Fat Hands

she used to sit in this cafe, and just face the wall. And it wasn’t coffee she was drinking

General knowledge

Posted by Alix on 4 November 2007

From the Shilling Cyclopaedia. This section is remarkable in its difference in style to modern general knowledge resources – here there is a much greater subjectivity, and tendency for an entry to just consist of a couple of non-key facts which presuppose a familiarity with the item already- for instance the entry ‘Camera’ reads thus: “[Cameras] are of all sizes. The largest ever made is probably the huge one made for the Ordnance Survey…”.

It’s a huge section, so I am going to extract a few items for each letter of the alphabet, and post a few at a time. There’s really so much more that’s fascinating, but I only have so much time, as, I assume, do you! Enquiring minds may contact me privately should they wish for more antique facts.

Ammoniaphone– “Instrument invented by Dr. Moffat in 1880 for improving tone of voice for speaking or singing, by inhaling gases that reproduce Italian air, which is rich in peroxide of hydrogen and free ammonia”

Didn’t exactly catch on, this one. Sounds bloody foul. Here is the 1884 New York Times article on it – it would appear that prior to inventing and using the ammoniaphone on himself the good Dr. Moffatt was afflicted by a voice ‘destitute of intonation’. Coo.

Beauty Shows– “…at Vienna a male beauty show was held at which the judges were 14 ladies. The first prize went to a wine merchant and the second to a man with a moustache 20 inches long”.

Moustaches. Are. Ace.

Bedouins– “…they have violent passions and love robbery…They have intellectual capabilities but are very ignorant”


Cows– “in the United Kingdom number about 3 1/2 millions….We do not really attempt to provide good cheap milk for the huge infant population of our industrial centres”

As now, as it was then.

Concrete– “…is used extensively in building under water, and also for walls of houses occasionally”.


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