Saturday, July 14, 2018
Roaring Twenties Tech & Culture
Hello, everyone! Welcome to my sanctuary. Or maybe I should say welcome Shieks and Shebas, because this post sort of reviews my Jazz Age Wednesdays serial, Hullaba Lulu.
My “partner in crime” for the #DieselPunk serial is artist Rob Goldstein who creates the illustrations and videos for Hullaba Lulu. Between us we’ve added many real world elements from Roaring Twenties culture and technology.
Today I’m spotlighting the real (though I used some of it in a fantastical way) technology and popular culture items of the Roaring Twenties. Some of these were “things” sent by Rob, others came along as part of my storytelling. This post will also serve as a catch-up review of Hullaba Lulu.
Don’t Bring Lulu
It’s no surprise that music was a big part of the Jazz Age. I created the some of the characters for Hullaba Lulu, inspired by the song Rob told me his grandmother sang to him.
What 1920s story could leave out things to do with Prohibition? I added a contradiction to a character by giving the flask to “darned nice girl” Pearl.
The Bright Young Things
Volumes could be written about that extraordinary collection of people, the Bright Young Things. That “thing” inspired me to include a fictionalized Tom Driberg in the story.
Spiritualism — Ouija Board
As they were during the Victorian Era, people in the 1920s continued to be fascinated with spiritualism. Seances, tarot readings, and Ouija boards were popular. When Rob sent the Ouija as a “thing” my imagination went off the rails and I made it part of the control system of Valentino’s train. That was just the beginning of me adding outrageous elements to the train.
Jung was a prominent figure of the 1920s. His work has been influential in not only psychiatry but also anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, and religious studies. When Rob mentioned the “red notebook” it took a bit of thinking for me to work it into the story.
In 1925 the Orthophonic Victrola was a big innovation in sound reproduction. That real 20s tech thing was another real world item I couldn’t resist adding to the diesel-punk tech of the fantastical train.
The beginning of the fifth chapter was a bit of family history for Lulu and her grandfather. I didn’t touch on social norms, but it was clear that Lulu’s family situation wasn’t typical of the era. Chapter 5.1 — Backstory
Part two of Chapter 5 gave us more “20s Tech.” Yes, they really had automats and vending machines even before the 1920s! The automats were gigantic, coin-operated vending machines with row upon row of windowed compartments, resembling glass-fronted post office boxes, housing dozens of menu items. I gave the train the automat of my dreams. It even makes cash.
Amusement parks came along in the Victorian Era. Flappers loved them too. Herbert W. Sellner, a woodworker and maker of water slides, invented the Tilt-A-Whirl in 1926 at his Faribault, Minnesota, home. In 1927, the first 14 Tilt-A-Whirls were built in Herbert’s basement and yard. Watch out for the tilt-a-whirl in the story… it’s not normal.
The Japanese port city of Nagasaki became something of a fantasy in Jazz Age songs, with lyrics only vaguely related to the real city. Several US novelty songs were set in “exotic” locations popular in the era. “Back in Nagasaki” inspired Rob to create a video. It gave me the idea for a group of automaton characters, Dynamite, his crush Hot Ginger, and later, Wicky, Wacky, and Woo. That song also led to Lulu receiving a title from the angel-bots — Giver of Names.
The Kodak company had been making cameras for quite awhile in the 20s. The Brownie was popular. In the story, I had Lulu borrow the one belonging to Gramps. You saw him with it in the title image.
The Garçonne Look
Improvements in women’s rights, and changes in fashion brought about the “tomboy look,” (favored by author Margaret Mitchell) and the more sophisticated Garçonne Look. For either, women wore menswear inspired clothes, including trousers, or simply men’s clothes. Rob dressed the Lauren character in the Garçonne Look.
That ride came along before the 20s but it made a great “thing” for the story, not to mention a couple of cliffhangers. The original, sometimes also referred to as the Chicago Wheel, was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.. With a height of 80.4 metres (264 ft) it was the tallest attraction at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, where it opened to the public on June 21, 1893.
Lulu is a little… well, let’s be honest. That flapper can be a bit crass. She gets food on her clothes and face, and she burps and hiccups… Bubblegum is her least offensive habit.
In 1928, an accountant invented bubblegum. Walter Diemer, was experimenting with new gum recipes. One recipe was less sticky than regular chewing gum, and stretched more easily. The original bubble gum was pink in color because that was the dye that Diemer had most on hand at the time.
Pittura Metafisica: Marked by a strong sense of solitude and melancholy, the uncanny and dreamlike urban spaces and enigmatic iconography were typical of Pittura Metafisica or “Metaphysical Painting.” Valentino is clearly no ordinary man. When he creates that kind of painting, you might accidentally walk right into it.
Can you believe they actually had videophones in the 20s? That was one of the most surprising “things” Rob sent. They were first invented all the way back in the late 1800s, but they were refined in the 20s. For more click here.
Chanel No. 5
I try to use all the senses in my stories. This iconic perfume was around back then. Chanel No. 5: In 1921, a very clever designer and businesswoman created a scent that revolutionized the way women smell. About a 100 years later, people still know Chanel No. 5. I let this “thing” belong to Rose. Tom Driberg uses expensive gifts to try and lure her back.
That’s what some people called Bolsheviks in the Roaring Twenties. It was part of their culture. When Rob sent that word as a “thing” I ended up bringing Russian spies into the story. It seems like they had nearly as much trouble with them in the 20s as we do now…
The jukebox in the story seems to have a mind of its own. That resulted in another character name being inspired by a song, Cuban Moon.
Ah yes… more tech! I decided to put one in Valentino’s Rolls-Royce. The first electric starter was installed on an Arnold, an adaptation of the Benz Velo, built in 1896 in East Peckham, England, by electrical engineer H. J. Dowsing. In 1903, Clyde J. Coleman invented and patented the first electric starter in America U.S. Patent 0,745,157.
I allowed the automatons a moment of heroism with a rather fantastic electromagnet. The real one was invented in 1825. William Sturgeon’s first one was a horseshoe-shaped piece of iron wrapped with a loosely wound coil. When a current was passed through the coil the electromagnet became magnetized, and when the current was stopped, the coil was demagnetized. It could lift nine pounds with a seven-ounce piece of iron wrapped with wires through which the current of a single cell battery was sent. The one I fictionalized lifted a lot more.
Music again, but not the ordinary variety! Rob sent this great “thing” and now I want one. It would freak out my cat, so I’ll resist. It’s a real world thing, but I used it in a fictional way, letting its freaky music be “medicinal” to help a sick character.
Originally known as the ætherphone/etherphone or thereminophone, a theremin is an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact by the performer. It is named after the Westernized name of its Soviet inventor, Léon Theremin, who patented the device in 1928.
Egyptomania took hold long before the Jazz Age, but it was still “alive” and well. I brought this in when I let a certain character come back when he was spotted at an archaeological dig.
When short, bobbed, hair became popular in the 20s it was no short lived thing. Along with a lot of technical innovations I think of the huge changes in women’s fashion as a time of innovation as well. Fashions of the Jazz Age focused on movement. Short hair brought on long earrings, dangling with that desired movement.
Earrings also tied to a real world element with a real life phobia for Nikola Tesla.
Update for Deborah!
Jewelry styles of the 1920s are still popular today. Deborah at Circadian Reflections asked for a picture of the earrings I recently bought. So, here are my fun, long, yellow tassel earrings, reminiscent of the Roaring Twenties.
The Violet Ray is probably the most startling “thing” Rob has sent yet. I can’t take credit for it, wild as my imagination can be. Nope… it’s real.
Invented by Nikola Tesla, the violet ray is a user-friendly, hand-held device that can be used with a variety of glass applicators, such as a bulb, a comb-rake, or a rod, each with a specific purpose. The glass is inserted into the tip of the hand-held section. After being plugged in and turned on, the appliance becomes a high-voltage, low amperage (current) source of static electricity. Its discharge creates a violet color (hence, its name), a pleasant ozone smell – and a sizzling noise.
Hopefully I will be able to add even more real world 1920s tech and culture as this story eventually comes to a close. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tech review.
If you haven’t gotten on the train, you can catch up by clicking the Hullaba Lulu category on the right side of the page. You’ll meet Lulu, her Gramps, friends Rose and Pearl, and some other characters as they begin a journey with an enigmatic man who only calls himself Valentino. Listen for the trumpet’s call and the conductor’s announcement, All aboard! That’s here each week for Jazz Age Wednesdays.
Thanks for taking time to visit. I love your comments, so be sure to say hello. You’re the cat’s pajamas!
Here’s my shameless self-promotion…
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
Artwork Copyright © 2018 by Rob Goldstein
All rights reserved.
No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.
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