Aether Salon: Exhibitionism!

9/27/09  at 2:13 PM
On Sunday, September 20th, the Aether Salon in Babbage Palisade launched its fall season with Exhibitionism! The speakers were Miss Breezy Carver and Mr. Aeolus Cleanslate, and the topic was the series of World Fairs held in the second half of the nineteenth century. As always, the Salon attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd.

Miss Viv Trafalgar introduced the speakers and kept what semblance of order is possible, aided by the usual call to check weapons and explosive devices at the door.

Miss Carver opened with a discussion of the Chicago World Fair of 1893, the famous "White City." The Fair, which was designed to show off Chicago as a world-class city - in contrast to what those in the eastern U.S. thought, not to mention those in Europe - took untold hours of planning and building, and opening on time was a close thing. Still, most thought the Fair a huge success, displaying cutting edge architecture and technology, including the first Ferris Wheel. At the same time, the Fair attracted predators, including a man calling himself "H.H. Holmes," who was later called America's first serial killer. Holmes moved from a life of fraud and bigamy to wholesale murder, often preying on young women who had come to Chicago for the Fair and took rooms at Holmes' boarding house. Below, Miss Carver and Mr. Cleanslate:

Miss Beq Janus and I have front-row seats for Miss Carver's presentation, which turned out to give us more of an eyeful than expected... Miss Carver's talk was interrupted by the arrival of Miss Ahnyanka Delphin, of the New Champagne Rooms, who danced the hootchy-cootchy in imitation of "Little Egypt," a Syrian dancer who introduced belly dancing to the States. Miss Delphin diverted the attention of the men in the audience with her scandalous attire.

Meanwhile, Capt. Red Llewellyn also scandalized the audience while seated on a nearby settee, looking lovely while doing so.

Mr. Cleanslate illustrated his talk with a new-fangled device he called a "kinoscope," which displayed pictures. He discussed the various World's Fairs of the 19th century, including those in London (1851), Philadelphia (1876), Paris (1889), Chicago (1893), and Paris again (1900). As Mr. Cleanslate noted, the term "World's Fair" came into vogue in the latter part of the century; the London fair was termed the "Great Exhibition."

As Mr. Cleanslate explained, with Prince Albert's help, the London fair, held in Hyde Park, was a huge success, featuring the famed Crystal Palace. The fair, showcasing British industrial technology, helped assuage fears of technology. The Philadelphia fair, held on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, was designed to show the country's post-Civil War recovery, as well as the U.S.'s prominent place in the world. The fair featured the hand and torch from the Statue of Liberty, and tours of it funded the completion of the statue.

Alas, other obligations called me from the discussion at that point, so I did not hear the finale of his presentation, nor the question and answer session that followed. Nonetheless, I can confidently say that the Salon has maintained its well-deserved reputation for booking speakers of the highest quality.

As is the custom with the Salon, attendees received a lovely gift. This session, Miss Canolli Capalini created a smart-looking miniature clockwork carousel, with four brass horses, that rotates and plays a carousel song. A hearty "Huzzah!" to the speakers and to Miss Capalini!

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