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Searching for snow globes

November 12, 2015 | 1 Comment

Remember the scene in Mary Poppins, when the singing super-nanny and and her little charges are looking into a beautiful glass snow globe which contains a model of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, as she tells them all about the old lady who feeds the birds?

I want that snow globe! There’s a replica on eBay, which costs about £1,000, so it’s highly unlikely, but if I ever do win the Lotto, it’s at the very top of my list.

This lovely chap is one I saw at Helen James Flowers on Station Parade in Harrogate.

This lovely chap is one I saw at Helen James Flowers on Station Parade in Harrogate.

Snow globes are magical, wonderful, and I love them. Not those plastic seaside ones, the oval-shaped domes containing an anchor and a life-saving ring, with Filey, or whatever, painted on it. I mean the proper globe glass ones, usually musical, and they must contain something beautiful if it’s to matter when it emerges from its swirling snowstorm.

I am on the quest for the perfect snow globe again in the run-up to Christmas. I don’t mind paying a reasonable amount for a good one, because to me they are such a lovely part of Christmas.

This polar bear one is available now at Marks & Spencer.

This polar bear one is available now at Marks & Spencer.

A snow globe features most famously in the 1941 classic Citizen Kane, which opens with Charles Foster Kane dying in a bed holding a snow globe, whispering “Rosebud” as it slips from his grasp and smashes. Obviously, the scattered contents of the snow globe represent the scattered and destroyed aspects on Kane’s life, so it’s very deep.

Apparently, the special edition VHS release of the film Fargo (1996) included a snow globe which, when shaken, stirred up both snow and blood, which sounds lovely. But my favourite filmic depiction of snow globes, and the one that began my interest in them, comes from the 2002 film Unfaithful starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere, who have a beautiful display of snow globes they have collected or given each other. And I’m afraid that one of them is used as a weapon of murder, but still … very beautiful.

I’ve been doing a bit of Googling, which means it might be all nonsense, but anyway, here is a brief history of the snow globe. Actually, there’s a lovely film about the history and making of snow globes set in Vienna and made by the BBC featuring Edwin Perzy III, whose grandfather invented his own version of the snow globe when he took the outer glass of a light bulb and filled it with water and some oatmeal, or similar. The company continues to this day in Vienna and recently made one for the Obamas, featuring them inside dancing. They keep the make-up of the snow a special secret, so its slowly sinking swirl cannot be copied. The film is on youtube.

These are at Fenwick in York, in the smaller shop to the side of the main entrance.

These are at Fenwick in York, in the smaller shop to the side of the main entrance.

It’s thought snow globes originated in France, and the first documented was one that contained a mini model of the Eiffel Tower, for the 1889 Paris Exhibition. They became popular all over Europe and America, then mass production in the 1940s developed their reputation for tackiness, especially when plastic came into use for their production in the 1950s.

Here another from Marks & Spencer, in currently at my Harrogate store. It's on my list.

Here another from Marks & Spencer, in currently at my Harrogate store. It’s on my list.

But the 1970s saw them become a collector’s item of taste once again and now you can pay as much or as little as you like, although I really am struggling to find what I want this year. I’ve been snapping a few when I’m out and about, so the ones here represent those that have caught my eye.

If anyone out there knows where I can find truly beautiful snow globes, please do let me know.

Stephanie.

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