Snow globes inhabit a peculiar and contentious intersection of American holiday décor and gift-giving: For most people, they are a clever bauble that brings joy as a decoration, but those same people might cringe at receiving one as a present.It’s true that snow globes
have been reduced to a throwaway gift idea by airport news kiosks and greeting card stores, but they weren’t always viewed as the last resort of the creatively bankrupt holiday shopper. So, where did they come from, and how did they get to where they are now?Globe de neige, s’il vous plait?
Although the French do not get credit for its invention, the first documentation of snow globes appears in the record of the 1878 Paris Universal Exposition. At the time they were considered as little more than a glorified paperweight, which may be why no one really took notice of them.Despite the exposition’s reputation at the time as being a catalyst for entrepreneurial enterprise, no one thought to commercialize the trinket following its debut. More than a decade later, even the Eiffel Tower (arguably the most memorable artifact of any Paris exposition) would appear in a souvenir globe in conjunction with the unveiling of the genuine article, and again it went largely unnoticed.He was an Austrian with ideas.
Some years later, a Viennese man named Erwin Perzy stumbled upon his own version of a snow globe while trying to fashion a light-bulb lens for a surgeon's operating room. As fortune would have it, Perzy also made miniature dioramas in his spare time, and when he combined the two ideas at the urging of a friend the snow globe was born.For all we know, he’d never seen nor heard of the globes that kept getting ignored in Paris. But, no matter! His family still makes snow globes to this day, with Erwin Perzy III manning the helm at the family factory outside Vienna. Perzy snow globes are now referred to as the “The Original Viennese Snowglobes” and they crank out about 200,000 a year.A snow globe for everyone!
Perzy patented his snow globes in 1900, but because the idea already existed and because manufacturing methods varied so much there was no feasible way to limit the production. So, while high-quality “original” globes were being made by Perzy and other Austrians well-regarded in the trade it didn’t take long for pretenders to the throne to enter the fray.Coincidentally, the use of plastics was greatly accelerating at the same time the snow globe market started expanding in the early 1900s, and it was a no-brainer for many a snake-oil salesman to turn a quick buck with a plastic globe.These days, snow globes come in pretty much any flavor you could ever want, and ATGStores.com
still thinks it can be a thoughtful gift idea, the emphasis here being on thoughtful