A History of Pressed Pennies

Since I was young I got excited anytime I’d see a penny pincher machine. Whether it was at the local zoo or while away on vacation, I’d be begging my parents for some extra change so I could take home my very own penny souvenir.

1893_Columbia_Exposition_pennyThe first recorded pressed pennies debuted as an innovative attraction at the 1893 World’s Fair. Also known at the time as the World’s Columbian Exposition, in honor of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus landing in America. Although there are rumors of pressed coins being used as jewelry by a Viennese Jeweler dating back to 1818 in Vienna, Austria. The World’s Fair penny cost a nickel and a coin to be pressed and the coin would be pressed between two industrial-strength rollers by a press operator. Out would come a squished coin in an oval-shape. It bore a stamp that had been embossed by a mold on one of the rollers that read: “Columbian Exposition 1893.”

Since the 1893 World’s Fair pressed pennies have gained popularity across the globe. You can find penny pincher machines everywhere from California to Japan to of course- Austria. Numismatists themselves have created their own following around the pressed penny; labeling themselves as exonumists. The name comes from exonumia coins, coins that are an oddball that don’t fit into standard definitions of money. Other examples of exonumia is arcade tokens, transportation tokens, and wooden nickels.

Pressed pennies continued to be a popular attraction among fairs and exhibitions, often serving as tokens to show you were there and to remember the event by. Around the 1930’s the machines got picked up by many tourist attractions when the owners started to realize the value of providing their customers with a cheap and interactive souvenir. There was a huge rise in popularity in 1980 when the pressing machines were introduced to Disney Parks. The parks got covered in these machines, offering coins for your favorite rides, attractions, and characters.

1818Viennese Jeweler Used Pressed Pennies in Jewelry

In more recent years exonumists have emerged and turned pressed penny collecting into a large hobby among collectors and coin enthusiasts. Collectors prefer to collect and smash pre-1982 pennies because current coins are predominantly made of zinc which makes the pressed penny appear more dark or worn. Exonumists will plan penny-smashing road trips to a mapped out route of machines- spending hours planning and traveling to get that special penny.

If you’re looking to get into pressed penny collecting start like you would with any coin collection: find something that intrigues you. That could be collecting all the pennies from a specific State, or collecting ones from a specific designer/engraver. You can find lists of pressing machines from websites like PennyCollector.com or PressedPennies.com. Or just be on the lookout for a penny presser wherever you go– there is a high chance you will run into them during activities you’d already be doing. Like going to the local amusement park with your family, or visiting the beach. As long as you have a bit of change you are always ready to press your very own new penny!

Another thing one might worry about before becoming an exonumist is if it’s legal; there is a common thought that it is illegal to deface currency. Penny pressing is legal in the USA and UK, but not in Canada. The United States Codes under Title 18, Chapter 17, and Section 331, “prohibits the mutilation, diminution and falsification of United States coinage.” Although, the foregoing statute does not prohibit the mutilation of coins if done without fraudulent intent or if the mutilated coins are not used fraudulently. But in Canada it is stated in section 11(1) of the Currency Act states that “no person shall, except in accordance with a licence granted by the Minister [Minister of Finance], melt down, break up or use otherwise than as currency any coin that is current and legal tender in Canada.” Furthermore, Section 456 of the Criminal Code of Canada makes it a criminal offence to deface circulation coins: “Every one who: (a)defaces a current coin, or (b)utters a current coin that has been defaced, is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.” So enjoy your penny pressing collecting — as long as you’re not in Canada! Or come visit us here in the States and collect some of our beautiful coins.


If there is a specific pressed penny you’ve always wanted then check out our ebay store for our collection of exonumia coins.

Thanks for Reading!

Seafarers Silver Trays

Anyone that has been to our warehouse knows that we have coins everywhere.  But Tim has also accumulated years and years worth of other collectibles, antiques, and goods.  And every once in a while, he’ll pull something out of the stash, and this time it was two different silver serving trays.  Engraved onto the trays were pictures of a boat, a name, and a date. And that’s where I come in. It was time to learn more about these silver trays.  

Vireo Ship Platter

Vireo Ship  Platter

Throughout time, sailors and seafarers have asked for protection from the mighty seas for their ships and their crews.   Whether it was the early Greeks asking for the blessing of Poseidon, or the Romans with Neptune, ship launchings usually included ceremonial processes.  Wine was drank and poured over the vessel, shrines were carried on board, and prayers were said. It wasn’t until more modern times that our current tradition of sponsorship of Naval vessels started to take shape.

Many of the traditions that we use today were passed on from the European navies.  The first American warship with a record of christening was the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides” in Boston on October 21, 1797.  Her sponsor, Captain James Sever, USN, stood on the weather deck at the bow. “At fifteen minutes after twelve she commenced a movement into the water with such steadiness, majesty and exactness as to fill every heart with sensations of joy and delight.” As Constitution ran out, Captain Sever broke a bottle of fine old Madeira over the heel of the bowsprit.

The tradition of women being the sponsors of ships didn’t happen until many years later.  In 1827 it was recorded that the sloop-of-war “Concord” was “christened by a young lady of Portsmouth.”  The first woman to be identified as sponsor was Miss Lavinia Fanning Watson, daughter of a prominent Philadelphian.  She broke a bottle of wine and water over the bow of sloop-of-war Germantown at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 22 August 1846. As time passed the christening, testing, commissioning and decommissioning of a ship became a more formal procedure with some standardized rules and guidelines that are still done today.  

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Norwegian minesweeper KNM Lagen (M950) being built at Bellingham Shipyards c1954.  Launched in the same year as the Warbler and Vireo.

Bellingham, WA, from its earliest days, was only accessible by boat and has a long maritime history.  Of particular consequence was Bellingham Marine Railway Co. which was a boat repair business going back to the early years of the 20th century. Later it became Bellingham Marine Railway and Boatbuilding Co. in 1921 when they built a new facility on the west side of Whatcom Creek waterway, on Squalicum Creek.  It was owned by O. I. Thorsen and J. G. Brown, who were joined in 1928 by A. S. Nilsen, of Nilsen & Keletz, the Seattle shipbuilders. In 1941, it became Bellingham Shipyards when it merged with Bellingham Iron Works and was owned by Archibald Talbot. They built minesweepers for the US Navy, and also started the Bell Boy Boats line before eventually closing in 1963.  But during its heyday in WWII, Bellingham Shipyard was the largest privately owned shipyard in the country and one of the biggest producers of ships for the US Navy.

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USS Warbler Ship Platter

Bellingham Shipyard continued to make naval minesweepers beyond WWII and  into the 50’s which were some of the last wooden ships produced for the US Navy.  Why wood you ask? Because many mines were magnetic and wooden boat wouldn’t attract them.  Two such ships produced were the USS Vireo and the USS Warbler. Both were sponsored by Bellingham locals.  Mrs. Millard “Minnie” Wahlstrand along with Mrs. S.A. Blythe were named co-sponsors of the USS Warbler, which launched on June 18, 1954.  Steward Blythe was the son of Arthur J. Blythe, who founded Blythe Heating and Plumbing. While Mrs.Katheryn Blythe is the only sponsor listed in the Ships of the United States Navy and Their Sponsors the tray clearly has Mrs. Millard Wahlstrand engraved on it.  Minnie’s husband Millard was also plumber likely working for Blythe Heating and Plumbing as well possibly explaining why there were co-sponsors.  Ms. Marvin Olsen, Rena, was named the sponsor of the Vireo. Marvin was one of the principle partners in the Bell Boy Boat company, which was a division of the Bellingham Shipyards Company.  They were one of the first boat builders to feature fiberglass in their hull designs. As sponsors, Rena and Millie were most likely involved in the keel laying ceremony where they etched their initials in the keel.  They were prominently featured in the christening ceremony where they broke a bottle of champagne over the bow of the ship. It was customary to present the sponsor with a small gift at the launching as well. The silver trays pictured above may have been the gifts given to both Minnie Wahlstrand and Rena Olsen.  The sponsors may have also been involved in the decommissioning ceremony when the each boat left the US Navy, since it was encouraged that the donors participate in the entire life of the boat. Often times a small inconsequential piece of the boat such as a nameplate, was gifted to the sponsor when the ship was decommissioned.

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The USS Warbler and Vireo moored side by side

The USS Warbler (AMS-206)  was “laid down” on the 15th of October, 1953.  It was launched in June of 1854, as shown on the silver tray, and then redesignated to MSC-206 on February 7, 1955 and then commissioned on the 26th of July, 1955 at the Naval Station in Tacoma, WA with LTJG James S. Efelt in command.  It then operated out of Long Beach for the next year before departing to Sasebo, Japan with its sister ship, Whippoorwill, also from the Bellingham Shipyards. It stayed in that area for the next 14 years with the Mine Division 32, participating in training exercises with neighboring navies.  It was then sent to Vietnam where it was used for “Operation Market Time” patrols off the coast. Here it patrolled for boats carrying arms and munitions to the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. Because of the Warblers size, it was adept at patrolling where larger destroyers couldn’t go, but was better armed than the smaller patrol boats.  It was used to board junks, and crew would inspect their cargo, and check their destination. By the end of the Vietnam Conflict, the Warbler was issued 7 engagement stars for its participation in “Operation Market Time.”
The Viero (AMS-205) was laid down on September 14th, 1953 and had it’s launch ceremony on April 30th of the same year and was redesignated as MSC-205.  After a trip to Seattle to complete it’s tests and trials, the Viero was commissioned on June 7th, 1955 and was sent to San Diego for shakedown training.  Eventually the USS Viero would also end up in Sasebo, Japan and serve in the region for the next 14 years. The first 8 were running peacekeeping missions, including minesweeping exercises with other local navies.  Eventually, the Viero would also end up in Vietnam in 1964. It also participated in patrols that were a part of Operation Market Time. After an overhaul in Sasebo in 1966, the Vireo was involved in its first bit of actual live enemy fire.  After the Coast Guard ship, Point Grey took .50 cal machine gun fire from a trawler, the Viero and Brister were called in for support. The enemy trawler was forced aground, and it was decided that US forces would try to salvage it by towing it but when the Point Grey approached, it took heavy fire from the shore.  Both the Vireo and the Point Grey responded with fire from the 20mm guns. The Point Grey retreated under covering fire from the Viero, and air strikes were called in that eventually destroyed the trawler. The Viero won the Navy Unit Commendation and her commanding officer won the Bronze Star Medal.

In July of 1970 the Viero and Warbler were recalled to Long Beach, and were transitioned into a Naval Reserve training ships.  The Viero was decommissioned on October 1st, 1970. In July 1975, her name was struck from the Navy list and on October 1st, she was transferred to the Fijian Navy, renamed Kula, and was eventually discarded in 1985.  The Warbler was decommissioned on the same day as the Viero and was also sold to the Fijian Navy in 1975, was renamed the HMFS Kiro. She served until 1995 when she was decommissioned and destroyed the following year.

I can only guess as to where exactly the silver trays fit into the story, but they served as a link between the past and present.  It gave us the opportunity to learn a little about Bellingham’s past, it’s importance in the shipbuilding industry, and to get a look at some of the traditions of sponsorship of Naval vessels that are still used today. Check out a close up of the inscriptions below and let us know what you think!

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The Appeal of Coin Trees

 

 

One of the most fascinating folklore traditions may also one of the newest: the coin tree. Contrary to popular assumptions, coin trees seem to be a relatively new tradition, though they grew out of a very old one.

 

 

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Clootie tree near Madron Well, Cornwall. Photo credit: Jim Champion, used under CC by SA 4.0.

In ancient times, wish trees were a common way to give offerings to local deities, or in an attempt to rid oneself of disease. Valuable items might be dropped into a pool at the foot of a tree, or attached to the tree itself. For the cure of an ailment, one might wash the affected body part with rags (known as cloughties or clooties), then tie the rag to the tree; as the rag decays with time, the disease goes with it. Pins were also commonly used to transfer illnesses from bodies to trees, and it’s possible that this is the origin of inserting coins into the bark of a tree.

 

 

While coins have been used as votive offerings and good luck charms for millennia, the phenomenon of coin trees may be relatively new. Ceri Houlbrook, a folklorist who specializes in coin trees, reports that no coins found at the Ardmaddy Coin Tree date to before 1914.

 

 

In one of her posts about the Ardmaddy dig (please go read the entire multi-post story on her blog, it’s fascinating!), Houlbrook says, “[Visitors] were all very interested in how old the tree was (I deal with people’s preoccupation with age in my thesis) and wanted to know what we’d found. A few of the local residents we’ve spoken to have been convinced that the wishing-tree is far older than the testimony of the coins would suggest; either we’ve not been digging deeply enough/in the right places, or it’s a case of that preoccupation with age again. A lot of people tend to over-estimate the ages of coin-trees, claiming that they’ve ‘always been there’, when they’re in fact only 10 or so years old. Obviously this coin-tree is much older than 10 years – if I had to estimate, I’d say that it possibly began in the 1920s, but didn’t become popular until the 1940s/50s – but I doubt that it’s ‘centuries’ old, as they claim in The Heritage Trees of Scotland. But like I said, I find the contemporaneity of these coin-tree fascinating; unlike my fellow archaeologists, the more modern these folk customs are, the more I’m intrigued by them.”

 

 

Hundreds of trees have been documented, and there are certainly more that are known locally without being on any historic registry. It will take a great deal more work from folklorists, historians, and numismatists to be able to tell the full story of when coin trees began to make their appearance.

 

 

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Modern hiker adding a coin to the coin tree at Bolton Abbey. Photo credit Zakhx150, used under CC by SA 4.0.

Whether any given coin tree is ancient or modern, the fascination with them is consistent. It’s almost impossible to pass such a tree without depositing a coin; Houlbrook once witnessed twelve families pass by a tree and decide to pound coins into the bark with a simple stone. The desire to leave an offering, for luck or simply as an “I was here,” is palpable. Human beings use coins to make purchases and exchanges every day; is it any wonder we would use them as good luck offerings, too?

 

 

[The image at top is from Ceri Houlbrook’s Twitter feed; and yes, even that ancient looking coin tree is quite modern! Many thanks to her for permission to use the photo and for answering questions! You can follow her on Twitter here.]

Coin and Currency Sites to Visit on Your Vacation

 

It’s summer, and many people are heading out on vacation. But there’s no reason not to celebrate your hobby on the road! Here’s a list of coin- and currency-related attractions and exhibits in all 50 states (and DC, of course!)
Alabama: The El Cazador Museum, which preserves the artifacts of the 1784 shipwreck, including its shipment of “pieces of eight.”

 

Alaska: The Alaska Mint, a private mint and also the northernmost mint in the US, as well as the starting point for the Iditarod race.

 

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The Good Enough Mine

Arizona: The Good Enough Mine, which provided some of the metal for the New Orleans Mint.

 

Arkansas: Due to a corruption-fighting measure in Arkansas legislation, you can go into the Treasury vault and examine the tax money. You can even take a selfie while holding the money!

 

California: The classic choice is Sutter’s Mill, where the Gold Rush began. If you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path, check out the Penny Bar in the McKittrick hotel, which is completely covered in pennies.

 

Colorado: Of course there is the Denver Mint, but don’t forget the American Numismatics Association Money Museum in Colorado Springs.

 

Connecticut: The Mitchelson Coin Collection at the Museum of Connecticut History has one of the premier collections of American coins in the world, including a 1907 ultra high relief Saint-Gaudens $20 gold double eagle
District of Columbia: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is a must-see, with its exhibit of coins, currency, and medals.

 

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Coin Beach

Delaware: Find coins from old wrecks on Delaware’s Coin Beach!

 

Florida: No visit to Florida is complete without a visit to the king of shipwreck salvage, Mel Fisher’s Treasures.

 

Georgia: The Mint at Dahlonega hasn’t been in use since the 1860’s, but the Dahlonega Gold Museum and Mint (housed in the old county courthouse, since the original Mint building burned down) are definitely worth a visit.

 

Hawaii: The statue of King Kamehameha I depicted on the Hawaii State Quarter is striking, and something you’ll want to see for yourself.

 

Idaho: Collectors of all types will enjoy the Idaho Falls Collectors’ Corner Museum.

 

Illinois: The Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is a solid choice for kids and adults alike. 

 

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Roman coins found in Indiana

Indiana: While digging for construction, workers found a collection of Roman coins that appeared to have once been kept in a leather bag. Some of the coins are on display in the Falls of the Ohio museum

 

Iowa: For currency aficionados, the Higgins Museum of National Bank Notes is definitely something to check out.

 

Kansas: The University of Kansas has an excellent collection of ancient coins.

 

Kentucky: Clay City, Kentucky, is home to one of the most unusual replica coin controversies. (You can also visit the Fort Knox visitor’s center while you’re in the state, but don’t expect to see much gold!)

 

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New Orleans Mint

Louisiana: The New Orleans Mint is a classic choice but don’t pass up Louisiana Treasures: they have an excellent display of World’s Fair tokens.

 

Maine: The Maine Penny is an unusual artifact at the Maine State Museum. It’s a legitimate Viking coin, but found too far south for the Vikings to have brought it. What’s its story?

 

Maryland: Learn more about metal conservation and early colonial coinage at St. Mary’s City museum.

 

Massachusetts: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has a legendary coin room. (Recommended by collector Kevin Cahalane.)

 

Michigan: The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has over 40,000 ancient coins.

 

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Wells Fargo Museum

Minnesota: Wells Fargo is synonymous with business and commerce over a distance, so it’s no surprise they have a Minneapolis museum featuring gold nuggets and coins.  

 

Mississippi: The University of Mississippi museum features an extensive collection of ancient coins.

 

Missouri: The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City also has a Money Museum, perfect for all ages.

 

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50,000 Silver Dollar Bar

Montana: If you’re looking for something a little more unusual, head off the beaten path in western Montana. The 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar in Haugan hosts one of the largest silver dollar collections in the world, displayed on the bar top and walls of the establishment.

 

Nebraska: Don’t miss the Byron Reed collection at Durham Museum in Omaha; it’s an impressive assortment of ancient and colonial coins, as well as exonumia, currency, and historical documents.

 

Nevada: Of course the Carson City Mint is the top choice for Nevada!

 

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Saint-Gaudens Estate

New Hampshire: America’s smallest and least-visited national park is a hidden gem, especially for numismatists. The Saint-Gauden Estate hosts some of the sculptor’s best works.

 

New Jersey: Be sure to check out the Belskie Museum, which contains some of the work of Abram Belskie, sculptor and medalist.

 

New Mexico: If you can find the Santa Clara Museum of Natural History, you just might be able to talk them into telling you where the 7 Cities of Gold are…

 

New York: Much of our financial system was put into place by Alexander Hamilton (including the Mint!) You can see his old house, the Hamilton Grange, in New York City.

 

North Carolina: The old Mint in Charlotte has a museum with a complete set of all gold coins minted there.

 

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Lefor Bank Vault

North Dakota: Sometimes all that’s left is where the coins were. You can see abandoned bank vaults in Lefor and Silva.

 

Ohio: Check out the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Learning Center and Money Museum.

 

Oklahoma: The Midgley Museum of collectibles has something for everyone, coin collector or not!

 

Oregon: A single penny decided the name of Portland, Oregon, and the original Portland Penny is on display at the Oregon Historical Society Museum. (For the pop culture addict, you can also see a Goonies exhibit at the Oregon Film Museum. Sadly, pirate treasure is NOT included.)

 

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US Mint in Philadelphia

Pennsylvania: What would a list of coin sites be without a mention of Philadelphia, the first and current Mint. American coin central!

 

Rhode Island: Coins aren’t just for collecting: have a blast at Spring Lake Penny Arcade, the oldest Penny Arcade Business in America. Not only is it still operating, but it still has the original pricing!

 

South Carolina: Something unusual for a niche currency collector: the US Army Finance Corps Museum.

 

South Dakota: One of the best producing mine in America, the Homestake mine. Not only has it produced vast amounts of ore, but it’s also been important to science!

 

Tennessee: Oak Ridge used to give visitors mildly irradiated dimes to show the changes radiation could make to silver. The site is now the American Museum of Science and Energy, and they definitely don’t give out radioactive coins anymore.

 

Texas: The Money Museum and Rarities Room in Houston is by appointment only, but does host an impressive collection. You can also visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth.

 

 Utah: Copper mining made a big impact on this state; there’s a whole museum dedicated to it in the town of Magna.

 

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Site of Harmon’s Mint

Vermont: One of the earliest sites for post-colonial coin minting was East Rupert, where Reuben Harmon, Jr. minted coins for the new state.

 

Virginia: If colonial coins are your thing, visit the museum in Williamsburg. They have an excellent collection.

 

Washington: Blaine, Washington, right on the border with Canada, is home of the original wooden nickels.

 

West Virgina: Need a favor? The ghost that haunts this grave accepts coins in exchange for granting wishes.

 

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Largest penny in the world

Wisconsin: It may not be the most detailed penny in the world, but it’s (probably) the largest!

 

Wyoming: The Carissa gold mine and mill is an excellent historic site well worth a visit.

 

(All photos used under fair use.)

 

 

 

Lemons, Loonies, and Lakhs: Money Slang From Around the World

Do you have a clunky silver echidna? Or maybe some spare watermelons? Most people are familiar with slang names for coins like “bob” or “loonie,” but some of the currency slang from around the world is extremely colorful and imaginative.

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In Australia, a “clunky silver echidna” refers to a five cent coin (which can also be “dusty shrapnel”), while a ten cent coin can be “Howie’s sticky dollar,” in reference to a politician known for introducing a goods and services tax. The two-dollar coin can be a “nugget,” a “twigger,” or–since it is approximately the same size as the five cent coin but thicker–a “fat echidna.”

 

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In Canada, the one-dollar coin is commonly called a “loonie,” for its well-known design of a loon on the reverse. The two-dollar coin, naturally, became the “toonie,” though some prefer to spell it as “twonie.”
1_rupee_bill_historical.jpgIndia has a denomination called the Lakh, which is equal to 100,000 rupees. The lakh is sometimes called the “peti,” which means “suitcase,” referring to the suitcase needed to carry a Lakh’s worth of notes. Wealthy businessmen may refer to two- and three-crore amounts as “2C” or “3C.”
s-l1600.jpgThe most common Russian slang words for money translate as “cabbage” and “dough.” 500 rubles are sometimes referred to as “pyatihatka,” which literally means “five huts,” perhaps a reference to the buying power of the currency. 1000 rubles can be “kosar” (mower) or “shtuka” (thing.) During the hyperinflation of the ruble during the Russian Civil War and 1980’s, some of the larger denominations acquired nicknames: 1 million rubles is “limon” (lemon) and a billion rubles were “arbuz” (watermelon.)

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Pre-decimalisation coins in the United Kingdom have many names. A “bob” was a shilling, while a farthing could be a “mag,” and a sixpence a “tanner.” The collective term “shrapnel” could refer to all loose change in a pocket, while a “wad” would be a large amount of paper money.

 

 

money-1428584_960_720.jpgRap and hip-hop music have given rise to new slang terms for money, as well. “Bands” refers to large amounts of paper currency, from the rubber bands often used to keep bills in bundles. “Guac,” short for “guacamole,” is also used, presumably due to the green color of both the condiment and American bills. “Cream” is based on the acronym “cash rules everything around me,” most notably used by the Wu-Tang Clan.

 

eight_varieties_of_pearsOne type of slang deserves special mention: the complex and lyrical phenomenon of “rhyming slang.” The best known example of this form is Cockney rhyming slang. In this system, the object is paired with a two-part phrase, the last part of which rhymes with the object. Sometimes the rhyme is left at this stage, but in many instances, the second part of the pairing is dropped, leaving an unrelated word to signify the object. For example, “stairs” could be paired with “apples and pears.” Then, “pears” would be dropped, leaving “apples.” (This is the system that lead to the phrase “blowing a raspberry;” the full rhyming phrase would be “raspberry tart.”) This manner of speaking can be extremely confusing to anyone not familiar with the system and its customs. In some instances, the original slang word is rhymed again, leading to even more distance from the original subject. This unique speech art began in the East End of London in the 1840s.

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In Australia, this can be seen in the slang terms for the twenty cent coin, which is referred to as a “splatty” or “fatty,” rhyming with the “platy” (platypus) on the coin. The 10 cent coin, which features a design of a bird, is sometimes called a “turd” for the same reason.

 

Whatever you call your currency, one thing is for certain: we’ll never run out of weird slang to use in describing money!

 

The World’s Fair | A History

The World’s Fair is a large public exhibition embedded in rich cultural tradition.  Originating in Paris with the industrial revolution, these grand expositions soon spread to continental Europe and the United Kingdom before making their mark across the world.  The grandfather fair, reverently referred to as the “Great Exhibition” was Prince Albert’s proposal to model regionally manufactured products in order to induce international trade and relations, buoy tourism and propagate art and design education.  The structure and ideology of this 1851 fair offered a clear precedent for the World’s Fair and it has continued to attract millions world-wide today.  The 2015 World’s Fair is being held in Milan, Italy.

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While culture sharing has always been and remains vital, the development of the World’s Fair can be distinguished in three Eras of characteristic evolution: Industrialization, Cultural Exchange and Nation Branding.

The Industrial Era, which lasted roughly from 1800 to 1938 focused heavily on trade and boasted technological inventions and industrial design in a rapidly advancing technological world.  Modern technologies were brought together from all over the world marking momentous occasions in historical information sharing.  Expositions such as the Philadelphia 1876 Centennial Exhibition with the debut of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and Chicago 1893 Fair presenting the early dishwasher became landmarks of advancement, procuring a progressive image of the World’s Fair.

During the Era of Cultural Exchange, beginning with New York’s 1939 World Fair, themed “Building a Better Tomorrow”, expositions took on diverging cultural themes, anticipating a bright future.  The focus of fairs became less about specific technologies and more about intercultural communication for the exchange and growth of innovation.  As cultural recognition and societal strength became of greater importance, the Era of Nation Branding began.

Countries began to use the World’s Fair as a platform to strengthen their national images through branding and architecture.  Great pavilions were erected and stand today as representations of great nations such as Japan, Canada, Finland and Spain.  Stunning architecture and nation branding required solid financial investment and thus, several nations shied away from hosting Expositions, fearing that the cost would outweigh the benefits.  The 2000 Dutch Exposition pavilion cost an approximate €35 million, but is thought to have brought in €350 million in turn for a thriving Dutch economy.

The World’s Fair has seen much evolution over the course of two hundred years and today embodies the characteristic of all three Eras.  Each fair presents the newest technologies including art and architecture while fostering cultural networking and bolstering a reputably positive national image. One of the few lasting, globally impacting traditions of our Earth, the World’s Fair is a magnificent opportunity for individuals, communities, cultures and societies to reach out as a part of an ever-evolving humanity.

Traveling with Art: Mount Fuji, Japan

What mountain could be better-known than Mount Fuji?

 

These hand-painted postcards featuring Mount Fuji have been created with care in an example of fine handiwork as testament to this famous icon of Japan.

 

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Handpainted postcard showing the view from near Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan and is an active stratovolcano. It sits on Honshu Island, the most populated island of the country.

 

The first to climb Mount Fuji was a monk in 663, and the first foreigner, named Sir Rutherford Alcock, reached the summit in eight hours in 1868.

 

When Edo (which is now Tokyo) became the capital of Japan, people began noticing the mountain from the local Tokaido-road. But even before then, people had admired the beautiful mountain.

 

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The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

The mountain has inspired artists, writers and poets for centuries. Perhaps the most famous art is Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai. This set contains views of the mountain from different seasons and viewpoints, perhaps the most famous of which is The Great Wave off Kanagawa which was published between 1830 and 1833.

 

From as early as the 7th century, the mountain has been considered sacred. Today, shrines still sit at the base and on the ascent for practitioners of Shinto.

 

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Art from the Brooklyn Museum, featuring Mount Fuji

Some scientists say that Fuji is due for another eruption soon, though the evidence for such a claim is shaky. The last eruption took place in 1707.

 

Today, Mount Fuji makes for a beautiful tourist destination, whether you’re climbing to the top or admiring from afar. And it’s a majestic view for all of the locals of Tokyo.

 

Have you seen Mount Fuji in person? Let us know in the comments!

Traveling with Art: Pyramid Peak, Colorado

 

It’s no secret: Colorado has some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the United States. So it’s no mystery that artists love it.

 

The artist Lanny Grant painted this piece, titled “Above Maroon Lake”. It shows the snow capped mountain called Pyramid Peak behind golden-yellow autumn trees. This was painted in 1985.

 

(If you’re interested in the painting, you can purchase it here.)

 

Grant specializes in landscapes, especially from remote locations that hardly anyone goes to. He’s always had a fascination with the landscapes in Colorado, and paints the vibrant colors of every season in his work.

 

In this stunning oil painting, Grant shows the view just opposite of Maroon Peak, above Maroon Lake. The lake was carved by Ice Age glaciers and dammed by landslide debris above the valley.

 

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Maroon Lake, Colorado

Pyramid Peak is the 47th highest mountain peak in Colorado, located within the Elk Mountains mountain range in the Rocky Mountains. It’s quite a steep mountain, and mountain climbers finding themselves on its trails are in for a difficult challenge. Loose rock is just one of the roadblocks in climbing this majestic mountain.

 

But clearly, even admiring from afar yields positive results. Grant uses controlled brush strokes and colors of blue, gold and brown in an almost photographic replication of the mountain in autumn in this painting.

 

These mountains are undoubtedly even more stunning in person!

 

Have you been to Colorado? What’s your favorite mountain or hike there?

 

The Incredible Story of Nellie Bly, Pt. II

 

To make a name for herself as a journalist, Nellie Bly never passed down an opportunity for a story.

(Check out Part I of Nellie’s story here!)

Bly was not done making news. In 1888, she persuaded her editor at New York World that she would take a trip around the world, a la Around the World in Eighty Days. A year later she boarded a steamer called the Augusta Victoria to begin her record-breaking journey.

The fictional Phileas Fogg as written by Jules Verne traversed the world in 80 days. Even though his record only existed in stories, it stood as a record worth beating.

But Bly had competition. The newspaper Cosmopolitan sponsored its own reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, to race around the world in the opposite direction. The World sponsored a “Nellie Bly Guessing Match” for the exact second that Bly would return from her trip.

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Bly used a number of transportation methods in her travels, including steamships, railroads, horses, rickshaws and more. In China Bly visited a leper colony and also bought a monkey in Singapore. She met Jules Verne himself in France. As she traveled she sent short reports of her positions.

Bly traveled mostly unchaperoned, a bold move for a woman of her time.

Bly had to take a slower ship than intended on the last leg of the trip, but the owner of the World hired a private train to rush her back.

After a journey of 72 days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds, Bly returned to New York. She set the world record for the fastest trip around the world.

Bisland, the reporter sent to race her, arrived in New York four and a half days later; she had missed a connection and had to finish her journey on a slower ship.

A few months later, a man named George Francis Train beat her record with a trip in 67 days.

Nellie Bly had established herself as an all-star reporter, and her name was later recognized in various pop culture and other references. The New York Press Club, for instance, gives an annual “Nellie Bly Club Reporter” journalism award to the best new journalists in the field.

When Bly passed away in 1922, she had an unmarked grave in New York’s Woodlawn Cemetery until the New York Press Club funded a gravestone with her name in 1978.

 

All Aboard for Standard Railroad Time

In the mid 19th century, a new invention swept the nation that would forever change how transportation and communication worked. The First Transcontinental Railroad was built, spanning the U.S. from San Francisco Bay to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

It was the start of a wonderful thing.

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But realization dawned upon the railroad companies. At the time, towns depended on their own local clocks to keep the time – thus leading to discrepancies between the times. When the ceremonial golden spike was to be driven into the ground to celebrate the opening of the Pacific Railroad in 1869, telegraphers declared the exact moment it happened. But the reported time varied from city to city. Even just in San Francisco, the reported time was both 11:44 and 11:46.

A number of time-keeping methods were used at the time. Many people still judged the time based on the placement of the sun in the sky. Local city times used town clocks based on the meridian of a certain location. Meanwhile, before the reform, railroads ran on time based on the town they had left from. The railroad timetables were very complicated.

Railroad officials knew they had to fix this. The time imbalance could only spell trouble for railroad workers and passengers.

So one man stepped up to make a more reasonable time synchronization. Charles Ferdinand Dowd, a teacher in New York, started designing a standard Railway Time. He made the plan that we’re familiar with today, where standard time is based on time zones. He moved the meridian time to the neutral Greenwich Mean time.

In 1873, railroad managers collectively took a look at Dowd’s plan and gave it praise. However, no action was made to establish the time zone plan.

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Then Sanford Fleming came along. He recommended a worldwide Standard Time and four time zones across the U.S. based on the Greenwich Mean Time. The secretary of the General Time Convention at the time, William F. Allen, liked Fleming’s plan and worked hard to establish the system.

Finally, in 1883, railroad heads all agreed to establish five time zones based on Fleming and Allen’s collective plans. It took some time for people to adjust but soon the plan proved itself to be incredibly useful, all thanks to the railroad system.

In 1999, the North America Railway Hall of Fame inducted Standard Time into its category of technical innovations.