Radio Podcast #4 – 1892 to 1893

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More audio time travel adventures from James and Sean. This time we cover the years 1892 and 1893, the world’s fair in Chicago, a couple of notorious murderers, some rude jokes about Frances Folsom (the wife of the President of the USA), and some popular music hall songs, which may not be as innocent as they seem.

Centuries of Sound is a monthly mix of original music and sounds from a year in history. Right now we’re up to 1928. To download full mixes, get early access to the radio podcast, and a get host of other benefits for $5 per month, please come to

Centuries of Sound on Cambridge 105 Radio – Episode 4 (1892-1893)

More audio time travel adventures from James and Sean. This time we cover the years 1892 and 1893, the world’s fair in Chicago, a couple of notorious murderers, some rude jokes about Frances Folsom (the wife of the President of the USA), and some popular music hall songs, which may not be as innocent as they seem.

1893 in art

Albert Edelfelt – Larin Paraske

Édouard Vuillard – The Seamstress

Eero Järnefelt – Raatajat Rahanalaiset (Under The Yoke)

Henri-Edmond Cross – The Evening Air

Lawrence Alma-Tadema – Unconscious Rivals

Olga Boznańska – Self-portrait

Paul Gauguin – The Ancestors of Tehamana (Merahi metua no Tehamana)

Peder Severin Krøyer – Summer Evening on Skagen’s Southern Beach

Ramon Casas – Over My Dead Body

Władysław Podkowiński – Frenzy of Exultations


Edvard Munch and The Scream

First exhibited in 1893 in Berlin, The Scream was the culmination of Munch’s magnum opus, a series of paintings called The Frieze of Life. This depicted the course of human existence through burgeoning love and sexual passion to suffering, despair and death, in Munch’s highly original, proto-expressionist style. His titles, from Death in the Sickroom, through Madonna to The Vampire, suggest just how directly and unironically he sought to depict the anxieties of late-19th century Europe. But against all Munch’s images, it is The Scream which stands out as the work which has seared itself into the Western imagination. It remains widely celebrated for capturing the torment of existence in what appeared to many in Munch’s time to be a frightening, godless world.

BBC Radio 4 In Our Time – Munch and The Scream

Oscar Wilde – Salome

Salomé is a rare instance in British theatrical history of an authentically ‘Symbolist’ drama. This means that it belongs with an innovative group of plays produced in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Conceived as an alternative to naturalism and the kind of plays that purported to represent life by reproducing everyday habits of speech and physical behaviour in recognisable environments, ‘Symbolist’ drama made use of poetic language and pictorial settings to invoke the inner lives of characters. Released from the constraints of the here-and-now it was free to express all manner of emotions both spiritual and sensual.

John Stokes – Salomé: symbolism, decadence and censorship

Oscar Wilde – Salomé (Original text in French)
Oscar Wilde – Salomé (English translation)
Oscar Wilde – Salomé (Free audio at Librivox)
Oscar Wilde – Salomé (Ken Russell production from 1988)




Grover Cleveland’s Upper Palate

Grover Cleveland seems like a very suitable president for the tail-end of the Gilded Age, with the demeanor of a wealthy industrialist, a magnificent walrus moustache, a wife half his age and an obsession with the incomprehensible issue of the gold standard while the reconstruction of the South was being rolled back.

A year into his second (non-consesecutive!) term, he sought the advice of the White House doctor about a persistent ulcer. A sample was taken, cancer was diagnosed, and a decision was made to secretly operate, on a yacht somewhere off Long Island, then to replace the president’s upper left jaw and hard palate.

More on this strange little story (and the rest of his career) can be found at the Washington Post’s ‘Presidential’ podcast here.

Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.


On June 20th 1893 Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the murder of her parents, but her reputation hasn’t really recovered in the years since.

Stuff You Missed In History Class have a podcast about her trial, including some new evidence which may shed some light on the case.

The World’s Columbian Exposition and The Devil in the White City

Worlds Fairs range from the spectacular (The Great Exhibition in London in 1851, The Exposition Universelle  in Paris in 1889) to the middling (did you know Expo 2017 is taking place right now in Kazakhstan right now?) but surely none can have changed the world as much as the World’s Columbian Exposition which took place in Chicago in 1893. Among other things the fair saw

  • The first large-scale use of AC electricity, ending the war of the currents
  • The City Beautiful movement and the start of modern city planning
  • Eadweard Muybridge showing his moving pictures to a paying public in the first commercial movie theater
  • Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show fixing the image of the “Wild West”
  • The Ferris Wheel, designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr
  • Scott Joplin, who became widely known for his piano playing at the fair and ragtime music, which had its first large-scale public exposure
  • The Pledge of Allegiance first performed by a mass of school children lined up in military fashion
  • The first moving walkway or travelator, which ran in a loop down the length of a lakefront pier to a casino
  • Cream of Wheat, Juicy Fruit gum, Quaker Oats and Shredded Wheat
  • Pabst Select being renamed Pabst Blue Ribbon following its win as “America’s Best” at the fair
  • The 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions, the first formal gathering of representatives of Eastern and Western spiritual traditions from around the world
  • Little Egypt introducing America to the suggestive version of the belly dance known as the “hootchy-kootchy”, to the tune said to have been improvised by Sol Bloom which now serves as the theme tune to anything exotically Middle-Eastern
  • Milton Hershey buying a European exhibitor’s chocolate manufacturing equipment and adding chocolate products to his caramel manufacturing business
  • A device that made possible the printing of books in Braille
  • The third rail, giving electric power to elevated trains
  • The first fully electrical kitchen including an automatic dishwasher
  • The first modern serial killer, Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, who killed up to 200 people in his specially-constructed “Murder Castle” three miles from the fair


The last of these was, naturally, not an advertised attraction, but the two are skillfully intertwined in the book The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Both were immense, ambitious construction projects which required single-minded planning, and both architects exploited the industriousness and anonymity of the modern city, though to very different ends. Though at times the book feels like a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster, with disconnected themes tied together with the flimsiest of thematic threads, it’s still both informative and very readable, and it’s hard to ask for much more in narrative nonfiction (I cannot speak for its accuracy, of course.)

Erik Larson – The Devil in the White City

Elsewhere in 1893

A crash on the New York Stock Exchange starts a depression
France takes over Laos and Ivory Coast.
Interests connected to the USA overthrow the Kingdom of Hawaii
The United States Supreme Court legally declares the tomato to be a vegetable
Gandhi arrives in South Africa where he will live until 1914
Lizzie Borden is acquitted of murdering her parents
New Zealand becomes the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote


The Independent Labour Party of the United Kingdom
The first motion picture studio in West Orange, New Jersey
The Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Cultured pearls
The Ferris Wheel
Futebol Clube do Porto, FC Basel, Královské Vinohrady (later Sparta Prague)
The Bahá’í Faith is first publicly mentioned in the United States
Car number plates
St Hilda’s College, Oxford
Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World”
“Good Morning to All”, which later becomes known as “Happy Birthday to You”.


Big Bill Broonzy, American blues singer and composer (d. 1958)
Jimmy Durante, American actor, singer, and comedian (d. 1980)
Lillian Gish, American actress (d. 1993)
Victor Gollancz, British publisher (d. 1967)
Hermann Göring, German Nazi official (d. 1946)
José María Velasco Ibarra, five-time President of Ecuador (d. 1979)
Mississippi John Hurt, American country blues singer and guitarist (d. 1966)
Harold Lloyd, American actor (d. 1971)
Mao Zedong, Chinese leader (d. 1976)
Gummo Marx, American comedian and actor (d. 1977)
Joan Miró, Spanish painter and sculptor (d. 1983)
Ivor Novello, Welsh actor and musician (d. 1951)
Leo Ornstein, Russian-born composer and pianist (d. 2002)
Wilfred Owen, English soldier and poet (d. 1918)
Dorothy Parker, American writer (d. 1967)
Prajadhipok, Rama VII, King of Siam (d. 1941)
Dorothy L. Sayers, British crime writer, poet, playwright and essayist (d. 1957)
Andrés Segovia, Spanish guitarist (d. 1987)
Albert Szent-Györgyi, Hungarian physiologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1986)
Soong Ching-ling, one of the Soong sisters, wife of Chinese president Sun Yat-sen (d. 1981)
Harold Urey, American chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1981)
Mae West, American actress, playwright, screenwriter, and sex symbol (d. 1980)


Georgiana Drew Barrymore, American actress-comedian (b. 1856)
Lucy Isabella Buckstone, English actress (b. 1857)
Jean-Martin Charcot, French neurologist (b. 1825)
Charles Gounod, French composer (b. 1818)
Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States (b. 1822)
Guy de Maupassant, French writer (b. 1850)
Lip Pike, American baseball player (b. 1845)
Duleep Singh, ruler of Punjab (b. 1838)
John Addington Symonds, English poet and literary critic (b. 1840)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Russian composer (b. 1840)

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